|Name:||Robert Franklin Coady|
|Rank/Branch:||Major/US Air Force|
Nakhon Phanom Airfield, Thailand
|Date of Birth:||11 September 1939|
|Home of Record:||New Orleans, LA|
|Date of Loss:||18 January 1966|
|Country of Loss:||Laos|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||(none missing)|
SYNOPSIS: With its
fantastic capability to carry a wide range of ordnance (8,000 pounds of external
armament), great flight range (out to 3,000 miles), and the ability to absorb
punishment, the single-seat Douglas A-1 Skyraider became one of the premier
performers in the close air support and attack mission role (nickname: Spad)
and RESCAP mission role (nickname: Sandy). The Skyraider served the Air Force,
Navy and Marines faithfully throughout the war in Southeast Asia
Oscar Eight was the code name given to a sector of eastern Laos located in rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 25 miles northwest of the infamous A Shau Valley, South Vietnam. The area encompassed the junction of Highway 92, which was a primary north-south artery of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and Highway 922, which branched off and ran directly east where it crossed into South Vietnam at a strategic point near the northern edge of the A Shau Valley. Oscar Eight was also located at the southeastern end of a large and narrow jungle covered valley that had two primary roads running through it, one on each side of the valley. Highway 92 ran along the west side and Highway 919 along the east. A power line ran parallel to Highway 92 and sometimes crossed it. In addition to the roads and power line, the Hoi An River also flowed through the valley passing the road junction roughly 1 mile west of it.
More American aircraft were downed in this sector than any other place in Laos. This was because burrowed deep in the hills of Oscar Eight was North Vietnamese General Vo Bam's 559th Transportation Group's forward headquarters. It was also the Ho Chi Minh Trail's control center and contained the largest NVA storage facility outside of North Vietnam. Oscar Eight was defended by consecutive belts of anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) guns of all sizes that were not only stationed on the ground, but also mounted on platforms in the trees and were expertly camouflaged. Oscar Eight also favored the enemy because the only suitable landing zones were located in a wide bowl surrounded by jungle covered high ground containing AAA guns and bunkered infantry.
At 0523 hours on 18 January 1969, then Capt. Robert F. Coady was the pilot of an A-1H Skyraider, call sign "Sandy 10," that departed Nakhon Phanom Airfield as the #2 aircraft in a flight of four conducting a morning search and recovery (SAR) mission. Capt. Coady was operating in the low element in a high/low flight formation to find and recover the 2-man crew of "Stormy 02," an F-4D that was shot down the afternoon before. Capt. Victor A. Smith, pilot; and Lt. Fegan, co-pilot; comprised the crew of Stormy 02 that was part of a two aircraft flight conducting a Forward Air Control (FAC)/armed reconnaissance mission against an active 37mm anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) site near Tchepone when it was struck by 37mm AAA fire from that gun emplacement.
One fully deployed parachute was seen descending to the ground by a flight of Navy aircraft that were operating in the same area. Further, SAR personnel found the wreckage of the F-4D on a 1200-foot high ridge in an extremely rocky and densely forested area that communist forces had heavily fortified. The Xepon River flowed between the town and the downed aircrew's position.
At 0625 hours on 18 January, 1st Lt. Fegan made radio contact with Sandy flight. Because of clouds and fog over the survivor's position, the rescue operation was delayed until 0900 hours. By that time the weather cleared with only a few scattered clouds left and visibility of 7 miles. After Sandy 09 and Sandy 10 made their first pass over his location, 1st Lt. Fegan advised the Sandy pilots that there was automatic weapons fire coming from the east and southeast of him. Further, repeated weapons fire was noted on each subsequent pass over the survivor's position. Sandy 09 received 7 hits from small arms fire. Capt. Coady was working the same area and at the same altitude as his flight leader, and was probably hit at the same time by the same AAA gunners.
According to Sandy 09, at 0932 hours he heard an unidentified radio transmission stating, "What in the world is that?" Looking around while pulling off the target, Sandy 09 observed a dust cloud, a white phosphorous cloud and smoke from burning gasoline. The entire length from dust to smoke was approximately 125 yards. The dust cloud from the crash path was located on the north side of Route 914 and on the west side of a small jungle clearing that then penetrated the jungle growth from an easterly heading. It was also approximately 2 ½ miles north of Capt. Smith and 1st Lt. Fegan's loss location, 38 miles west-northwest of Khe Sanh, South Vietnam; 2 miles north of Tchepone, 3 miles due east of the junction of Routes 19 and 92, and 9 miles southeast of Binh Tram 34 on Route 19, 22 miles west of the Lao/South Vietnamese border, Savannakhet Province, Laos.
However, he saw no parachute in the confusion of battle, dust and smoke. He tried to raise Capt. Coady on his survival radio, but was not able to establish contact. SAR efforts continued throughout the day, but when no trace of Robert Coady was found, the search effort was terminated. At the time it was cancelled, Robert Coady was listed Missing in Action. During the search operation, a SAR helicopter successfully rescued Lt. Fegan. The pilot of the Phantom, Capt. Victor A. Smith, was not located and subsequently he was also listed Missing in Action.
Upon his early release from prison on 5 August 1969, 1st Lt. Wesley L. Rumble reported having heard of a POW named either "Bill Cody or Cote," but never personally saw a POW with that name and could provide no other information about that individual. This information was provided to Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) personnel during his debriefing on 3 October 1969 and again to the State Department in his debriefing by their personnel on 25 September 1969. In 1978, the US Air Force correlated this information to Robert T. Coady.
In 1971, the families of men missing throughout Southeast Asia were shown communist propaganda films in an attempt to identify prisoners who remained unidentified. Capt. Coady's sister viewed a film depicting US POWs in North Vietnam during Christmas 1969. In addition to positively identifying one of the men in this film as her brother, she also identified another picture in a post-capture photo album shown to her by US Air Force casualty personnel as him.
In July 1992, members of the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTFFA) investigated Capt. Coady's suspected crash site. While in the area of loss, US team members interviewed witnesses concerning the circumstances of the crash. One source described having recovered a dogtag bearing Robert Coady's name in 1990 along with other personal artifacts while scavenging for metal at the site. However, the witness did not produce any of those items for the team member to see and examine. Also during this trip to the crash site, the team found some pilot related items and surface wreckage that permitted a tentative correlation of this site to Robert Coady's aircraft.
Robert Coady is among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding "tens of tens" of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or through the Paris Peace Accords which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.
If Robert Coady died in the loss of his aircraft, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he survived, he most certainly would have been captured and his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different.
Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Pilots in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.