COAKLEY, WILLIAM FRANCIS
Remains Returned, ID'd 1989
Name: William Francis Coakley
Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 153, USS Constellation (CVA-64)
Date of Birth: 12 August 1933
Home City of Record: Lennox MA
Date of Loss: 13 September 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 193657N 1054757E (WG838690)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S.
Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families,
published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 1998.
SYNOPSIS: LtCdr. William F. Coakley was a pilot assigned to Attack Squadron
153 onboard the aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CVA-64). On the night of
September 13, 1966, he launched in his A4C "Skyhawk" attack aircraft on an
armed reconnaissance mission into North Vietnam.
Coakley's aircraft commenced an identification pass under a single flare
dropped by his flight leader. He reported by radio that he was in his run
and immediately thereafter, the flight leader observed Coakley's aircraft
impact the ground spreading flames over a large area. No transmissions were
received in response to calls, no signalling devices were seen or heard. It
is suspected that enemy ground fire or Coakley's excessive concentration on
the target area caused his collision with the ground. No ejection or
parachute was seen.
Coakley's status was initially Missing In Action, but was changed the
following day, September 14, 1966, by the onscene commander to Killed In
Action, Body Not Recovered. He was among nearly 2500 Americans still
unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
In early 1989, the U.S. announced that remains returned by Vietnam had been
positively identified as those of Commander William F. Coakley. For 22
years, the Vietnamese denied any knowledge of him or his fate, but
"discovered" his remains and returned them to U.S. control. According to the
Vietnamese, Coakley died instantly when a Surface to Air Missile (SAM) hit
Coakley was a career Navy officer, having been in the service since the
1950's. The agonizing wait is over for his mother, Jeannette, age 85 who
wondered for 23 years whether he was a prisoner of war. "All those years I
worried about his being in prison. It's a terrible thing when you know how
he might have been tortured. I'm very sad and happy all at once," Coakley's
mother told Boston Globe reporter Ray Richard.
Since war's end, thousands of reports have been received indicating that
many Americans did not perish in their crashes as Coakley evidently did, but
survived, and are still alive today waiting for the country they served to
bring them home. What are we doing to secure their freedom?
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