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Mon, Dec 22, 2003

Finally, Welcome Home, Airmen

Remains Of US Fighter Crew Returned For Burial

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.



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