Maj. Richard Cooper Jr. of Salisbury
(MD), and Chief Master Sgt. Charlie Poole of Gibsland, (LA), had
finished flying for Uncle Sam and were flying for themselves on
December 19, 1972. Their B-52D had just dropped its load over Hanoi
and was returning to base when they were hit by a SAM. The aircraft
went down about six miles southwest of Hanoi. Friday, the Pentagon
said their remains had been identified and were being shipped home
to their families for burial.
Cooper was the flight's navigator. Poole was the aerial gunner.
After the shoot-down, other aircraft in the area were unable to
contact the six-man crew on their emergency radios. No SAR was
attempted because the crash site was so deep in enemy territory.
The four surviving crew members were captured. They spent more than
a year as prisoners of the North Vietnamese. After their release,
they told Air Force interrogators that Cooper was unable to eject.
They had no indication of Poole's fate.
Two joint US-Vietnamese excavations in 1995 and 1996 led to the
retrieval of remains from the crash site. But it took until last
week before the Army's Central Identification Laboratory was able
to get solid DNA matches on the remains.