PIERSON, WILLIAM COOPER III

Name: William Cooper Pierson III
Rank/Branch: Warrant Officer 3rd Class/US Army
Unit: Troop B, 1st Squadron, 
1st Cavalry, 
101st Airborne Division 

Date of Birth: 23 December 1947 (San Antonio, TX) 
Home of Record: Madison, WI
Date of Loss: 13 April 1969
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 155701N 1063806E (XC 749 640)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: AH1G "Cobra"
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:   The first Bell AH1G Cobra helicopter gunships arrived in Vietnam on 1 September 1967 and since it carried both guns and rockets, it was a major step forward in the development of the armed helicopter. The Cobra had enough speed to meet the escort mission perimeters, tandem seating, better armor, and a better weapons system than any previous helicopter of its day. By 1970-1, the Cobra's armament included the 2.75-inch rocket with a 17-pound warhead, the very effective 2.75-inch flachette rocket, and the SX-35 20mm cannon which made it a truly powerful aircraft.

On 13 April 1969, Capt. Alvie J. Ledford, Jr., pilot, and then WO1 William C. Pierson III, co-pilot, comprised the crew of an AH1G Cobra gunship on a visual reconnaissance over a section of Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam. Their area of operation was covered in jungle with several rivers running through it and scattered clearings used for growing rice.

The pilot of an OH6A light observation helicopter, nicknamed "Loach," reported seeing enemy activity on the ground and requested the AH1G to attack the target. When the Cobra gunship was about 500 feet into its dive, the crew of the Loach saw flames spurting from one side of the aircraft that appeared to come from below and behind the pilot's compartment. They then saw the pilot compartment separate from the aircraft and disintegrate in the air as it fell to the ground approximately 41 miles east of the Lao/Thai border, 73 miles W of South Vietnamese/Lao border and 104 miles west of Kham Duc, South Vietnam.
,p>At 1400 hours on the same day, while conducting an aerial search of the area for survivors, the Loach pilot saw what he believed to be human remains located in a stream southeast of the main aircraft wreckage. At 1530 hours, a recovery team was inserted into the area. The next morning the Loach pilot who participated in the initial operation, returned to the area and observed the 6-man Ranger team as they searched the area. The team inspected the wreckage and surrounding area, and noted no signs of blood, flesh or personal belongings, but did not find the remains of either crewman.

A week later, on 20 April, the Loach pilot again returned to the loss area and relocated the remains which he had seen in the stream shortly after the gunship was shot down. Those remains were subsequently recovered and identified as belonging to Capt. Alvie J. Ledford, Jr. He continued an aerial search for WO1 WO Pierson, but again found no trace of him. At that time William C Pierson III was listed Missing in Action.

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 American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam were called upon to fly and fight 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.