William Earl Cooper
Lt. Colonel, US Air Force
Name: William Earl Cooper
Other Personnel in Incident: Jerry D. Driscoll (released Pow) in same flight
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from US Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
SYNOPSIS: On April 24, 1966, a multi-plane strike force departed Korat Airbase, Thailand on a strike mission on a highway-railroad bridge north of Hanoi. The target was a vital link, bearing traffic coming down from China.
As the first flight approached the target, Cooper's F105D was hit by a surface-to-air missile (SAM). The plane subsequently broke in half, and the front section, with canopy intact, was observed as it fell into a flat spin. Witnessed did not see Cooper eject and and believed the he went down with the aircraft, but there was doubt enough that the Air Force determined him Missing in Action rather than killed.
Just afterwards, 1Lt. Jerry D. Driscoll (code-name Pecan 4) was inbound to the target, about ten miles north, going approximately 550 knots (about 600 miles per hour) when his aircraft was struck in the tail by anti-aircraft fire, causing it to catch fire. Flames were blowing out the back twice as long as the aircraft. Others in the flight radioed to Driscoll that he was on fire, and he immediately prepared to eject as the aircraft commenced a roll. Driscoll punched out at about 1000 feet, with the aircraft nearly inverted, and as a result, his parachute barely opened before he was on the ground. He had removed his parachute and was starting to take off his heavy flight suit when he was surrounded by about twenty North Vietnamese and captured
Driscoll was moved immediately to the "Heartbreak Hotel" in Hanoi where his interrogation (and torture) began. Driscoll was a POW for the next seven years, and was released in Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973.