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[Spacer] [Navy Seal - 4.4K] William Francis Coakley
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  • 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
  • Category: 3
  • Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  A4C
  • Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
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    [Up - .1K] [Spacer] SYNOPSIS [Spacer] [Up - .1K]

    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 his aircraft.

    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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