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U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
John Lemoine Coon, SSgt., USAF (KIA)October 06, 1932 – May 23, 1968
John Lemoine Coon was born on October 6, 1932. According to our records New York was his home or enlistment state and Ontario County included within the archival record. We have Phelps listed as the city.
He had enlisted in the Air Force. Entered via Regular Military. Served during the Vietnam War. He began his tour on November 26, 1967. He had the rank of Staff Sergeant. Served with 7th Air Force, 56th Acw/sow, 21st Sos Helo.
Coon was reported missing and ultimately declared dead on May 23, 1968. Recorded circumstances attributed to: “Hostile Died While Missing, Air Loss Crash – Land, Helicopter – Crew”. Incident location: South Vietnam, Quang Tri province.
The Battle of Khe Sanh was conducted in northwestern Quaag Tri Province, South Vietnam with roots in 1967, and extending viciously throughout 1968. It was the longest, deadliest and most controversial battle of the Vietnam War.
During the battle, a massive aerial bombardment campaign (Operation Niagara) was launched by the United States. Over 100,000 tons of bombs. Five tons of bombs for every one of the 20,000 NVA soldiers in the fight. President Johnson was determined to hold Khe Sanh at all costs. The jungles surrounding Khe Sanh were burned and bombed barren and Khe Sanh became the major news headline coming out of Vietnam in late March 1968. The cost on American lives lost has been estimated to be around 1000 with NVA loses ten times that number.
★ Purple Heart
★ National Defense Service Medal
★ Vietnam Campaign Medal
★ Vietnam Service Medal
★ Air Force Presidential Unit Citation
★ Vietnam Gallantry Cross
★ Air Force Good Conduct Medal
Staff Sergeant John Lemoine Coon was killed in action when CH-3E #66-13295 (Call sign Dusty-51) of the 21st Special Operations Squadron from Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base was shot down by enemy action in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam on 23 May 1968.
By May, 1968, the siege at Khe Sanh, had been lifted, but North Vietnamese, Army activity, in western Quang Tri, remained, at a high, level and the “Mini-Tet,” offensive, had increased, enemy activity, throughout South Vietnam. On 23, May 1968, three, CH-3E, helicopters, departed Nakhon Phanom, RTAFB, on a close-hold mission. – according, to one report, they “on a classified, ordnance, delivery mission,” according to another, they were to deliver sensors, designed, to detect and track, NVA., forces. In any case, the area involved was near, Khe Sanh and the helos, were escorted, by a flight, of A-1, Skyraiders. On arrival, in the target, area, the helos, dropped down through a hole, in a nearly-solid, cloud cover. Once underneath, the flight lead, Captain, John H. McCollum, determined, that the mission was not, practical and directed, the flight, to climb, back above, the cloud deck. The wing helicopters did so, without difficulty, but visual and radio contact, with Captain, McCollum’s aircraft, was lost. Weather conditions pretty much limited, search and rescue efforts, to radio calls and eventually, the effort was called off, pending improved weather. When the cloud, cover, broke up, smoke, from the burning wreckage, led SAR., forces, to the crash site, which was located, several hundred feet, below the peak, of a 5700-foot, mountain. The aircraft wreckage, was in two separate areas, with the bulk, of the fuselage about 450, feet uphill from the aft-most, fuselage section. There were, no signs, of survivors, but attempts, to lower a search party, to the site were foiled, by heavy turbulence, around the peaks. For the next three weeks, Marine, ground forces, attempted, to reach the crash site, but were unable, to do so. Although the crash, was believed to be un-survivable, the six, men aboard, were classed, as Missing, in Action. The five, crewmen, from the 21st, Special Ops., Squadron, were: Captain, James P. McCollum, Pleasantville, NJ., pilot; Captain, William H. Taylor, Wilson, NC., copilot; SSgt., John L. Coon, Phelps, NY., Flight Engineer; Sgt., John E. Albanese, Medina, NY., Flight Engineer and Sgt., Robert A. Fink, San Diego, CA., Crew Chief. The sixth man, Sgt., Thomas F. Buhr, Fort Wayne, IN., a combat photographer, from the 600th, Photo Squadron, was aboard in a non-crew, status. On 02, Nov., 1968, a ground party finally reached, the site and recovered human remains believed, to be those, of at least, five men. A mortuary report, from 15, Jan., 1969, stated, that only, the remains, of Captain, William H. Taylor, could be individually identified. The unidentified remains, were given a group burial, with military honors, in Site, 346, Section, 81, of the Jefferson, Barracks, National Cemetery, Saint Louis, Missouri.
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