|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 1969|
|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 A1 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.
At 0523 hours on 18 January 1969, then Capt. Robert F. Coady was the pilot of an A1H Skyraider, call sign "Sandy 10," that departed Nakhon Phanom Airfield as the #2 aircraft in a flight of two. Capt. Coady was operating as the low element in a high/low flight formation conducting a first light search and recovery (SAR) mission to pick up the 2-man crew of "Stormy 02," an F4D that was shot down the afternoon before. The Phantom crew was attacking an active 37mm anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) site when it was struck by AAA fire from that gun emplacement. Their target was located in rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 23 miles west-northwest of Khe Sanh, South Vietnam; 3 miles southeast of Muang Xepon, and 7 miles west of Tchepone, Savannakhet Province, Laos.
This area of eastern Laos was considered a major gateway into the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.
At 0625 hours on 18 January, the co-pilot of Stormy 02 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, Lt. Fegan, the downed co-pilot, 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 the flight leader, and was probably hit at the same time by the same gunners.
According to Sandy 09, at 0932 hours he heard an unidentified radio call saying, "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 in a small jungle clearing that then penetrated the jungle growth from an easterly heading. Sandy 09 saw the aircraft wreckage approximately 5 miles southeast of Muang Xepon and 5 ½ miles west of Tchepone. However, he saw no parachute in the confusion, dust and smoke. He tried to raise Capt. Coady on the radio, but was not able to establish contact. SAR efforts continued throughout the day, but when no trace of Robert Coady was found, he was immediately listed Missing in Action. During the search operation, Lt. Fegan was rescued by a SAR helicopter. The pilot of the Phantom, Capt. Victor A. Smith, was not located and subsequently he was also listed Missing in Action.
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.
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.