Former Naval Pilot Lost After POW Speaking Engagement
A former prisoner of
war who survived being shot down over North Vietnam plane went down
Friday along with two others when a Piper Aerostar was lost in
California's Central Valley. Cole Black, a former Navy captain from
Escondido, was aboard the twin-engine plane that went down in an
orange grove in a rural area near Delano, his wife, Karen Black,
told The Associated Press.
The Piper Aerostar 602P (file illustrations below) took off from
Roseburg, Ore., about 75 miles southwest of Eugene, said a
spokeswoman for Meadows Field Airport in Bakersfield. It was
heading to McClellan Palomar Airport in north San Diego County to
drop off Black (pictured right), his wife said in a story by The
The plane was being piloted by Bruce Klein, the paper reported.
Black, 74, who was shot down and then nearly seven years in a
prison camp was heading home after speaking to students in Oregon
this week about his experience as a POW.
The accident is being investigated by the National
Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation
Also lost on the flight was Klein, who lives in Oregon and owns
several pizza restaurants, and Sally S. Wilson, a retired school
teacher from Oakland, the News-Review newspaper in Oregon reported.
At a reunion marking the 20-year anniversary of the POWs' release,
Black expressed regret over a flying maneuver that changed his
Black was flying an F-8 Crusader when he was shot down over
North Vietnam in 1966. He was jailed in a torturous prisoner of war
camp nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton for nearly seven years.
"If I had turned right instead of left, I wouldn't have got shot
down. Everybody goes through life doing things you sometimes say,
'I shouldn't have done that.' The penalty isn't too bad in some
cases but it was pretty bad in that case," Black was quoted saying
in an AP story. Cole remained in the military despite his POW
experience and became executive officer of Marine Corps Air Station
Miramar in San Diego, then a Naval attaché for Mexico and
Central America, Karen Black said.
Cole retired from the military in 1986, and pursued a career in
real estate. He spoke often to civic groups about his experience in
Vietnam, and remained close with other POWs, said his wife.
"He was not bitter about what he went through," she said. "He
was among a group of men who believed in honor and country." Cole's
75th birthday was coming up on Nov. 27, and his friends had been
raising money to have his name painted on a plane he had flown on
and is now displayed at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.
"It would have been a nice tribute," she said.