Cooper, William Earl, Col

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Last Rank
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
66-Air Commander
Last AFSC Group
Command and Control
Primary Unit
1965-1966, 66, 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron
Service Years
1942 - 1966
Officer Collar Insignia

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

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Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by A1C Douglas Freeman (Sundown) to remember Cooper, William Earl, Col.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Albany, GA
Last Address
Korat RTAFB, Thailand

Casualty Date
Apr 24, 1966
Hostile, Died while Missing
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Vietnam, North (Vietnam)
Vietnam War
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
06E 131

 Official Badges 

 Unofficial Badges 

 Military Association Memberships
Vietnam Veterans MemorialAmerican Battle Monuments Commission
  2012, Vietnam Veterans Memorial [Verified] - Assoc. Page
  2014, American Battle Monuments Commission

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Aviator (Command)

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
388th Tactical Fighter Wing469th Tactical Fighter Squadron
  1965-1966, 66, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing
  1965-1966, 66, 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1945 World War II
  1944-1944 World War II/Asian-Pacific Theater/Air Offensive Campaign Japan (1942-45)
  1945-1945 World War II/Asian-Pacific Theater/Western Pacific Campaign (1944-45)
  1965-1973 Various Air Missions over North Vietnam
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
William Cooper enlisted originally in the U.S. Army, obtaining an OCS commission in 1942. Before the end of World War II he transferred to the Army Air Forces and flew B-24 bombers in the CBI -China and the Pacific Theaters.

He was recalled from the Air Force Reserves to active duty as an Instructor Pilot during the Korean War.

During the Vietnam War, he served with 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, 7th Air Force, Korat RTAFB. Lt. Col. Cooper was the squadron commander leading a strike mission on a highway-railroad bridge north of Hanoi. 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.

Air Force Cross
Awarded posthumously for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pride in presenting the Air Force Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Colonel [then Major] William Earl Cooper (AFSN: 0-52496), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as Pilot of an F-105 Thunderchief and Commander of the 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, in action on 24 April 1966. On that date, Lieutenant Colonel Cooper was the commander of a composite strike force of thirteen F-105 aircraft and 20 support aircraft whose mission was to destroy a vitally important military target in North Vietnam. With full knowledge of the vast defense network aligned against them, Colonel Cooper briefed the strike force to keep him in sight during the flight but to remain at a lower altitude. His alone took the risk of entering the effective missile envelope to assure target acquisition. Although encountering several severe thunderstorms, he displayed superb navigation and airmanship in bringing the strike force precisely over the pre-planned check point and setting the force directly on line to the target. Approximately 30 miles from the target, the countryside erupted with the heaviest anti-aircraft artillery barrage ever encountered by an attacking United States force. Colonel Cooper instructed his pilots to take necessary evasive action while he remained on course to insure accurate navigation through the clouds which were obstructing the mission route. To further complicate the situation, he was advised by radio contact that a hostile missile launch was imminent. Again disregarding his own safety, Colonel Cooper instructed his pilots to take evasive action while he remained on course. At this point hostile fire disabled his radio. Without radio contact with his pilots, Colonel Cooper pressed the attack with the strike force following below the clouds for visual target sighting. At this critical point, Colonel Cooper's aircraft received a direct hit from the hostile fire. The extraordinary heroism and exceptional airmanship displayed by Colonel Cooper are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Action Date: 24-Apr-66
Service: Air Force
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Company: 469 Tactical Fighter Squadron
Division: Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand

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