Name: Cole Black
Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy
Date of Birth: 23 November 32
Home City of Record: Lake City MN
Date of Loss: 21 June 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 213400N 1063900E (XJ708855)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project from one or more of the
following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with
POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.
REMARKS: 730212 RELSD BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: The Vought F8 "Crusader" saw action early in U.S. involvement in
Southeast Asia. Its fighter models participated both in the first Gulf of
Tonkin reprisal in August 1964 and in the myriad attacks against North
Vietnam during Operation Rolling Thunder. The Crusader was used exclusively
by the Navy and Marine air wings (although there is one U.S. Air Force pilot
reported shot down on an F8) and represented half or more of the carrier
fighters in the Gulf of Tonkin during the first four years of the war. The
aircraft was credited with nearly 53% of MiG kills in Vietnam.
The most frequently used fighter versions of the Crusader in Vietnam were
the C, D, and E models although the H and J were also used. The Charlie
carried only Sidewinders on fuselage racks, and were assigned such missions
as CAP (Combat Air Patrol), flying at higher altitudes. The Echo model had a
heavier reinforced wing able to carry extra Sidewinders or bombs, and were
used to attack ground targets, giving it increased vulnerability. The Echo
version launched with less fuel, to accommodate the larger bomb store, and
frequently arrived back at ship low on fuel. The RF models were equipped for
The combat attrition rate of the Crusader was comparable to similar
fighters. Between 1964 to 1972, eighty-three Crusaders were either lost or
destroyed by enemy fire. Another 109 required major rebuilding. 145 Crusader
pilots were recovered; 57 were not. Twenty of these pilots were captured and
released. The other 43 remained missing at the end of the war.
Commander Cole Black was the pilot of an F8E sent on a combat mission over
North Vietnam on June 21, 1966. His flight route took him northeast of
Hanoi, where he was shot down near the border of Lang Son and Ha Bac
Provinces about 15 miles southwest of the city of Lang Son.
For the next 7 years, Black was held in various prisoner of war camps,
including the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" complex in Hanoi. He was released in
the general prisoner release in 1973.
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing,
prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S.
Government. Many authorities who have examined this largely classified
information are convinced that hundreds of Americans are still held captive
today. These reports are the source of serious distress to many returned
American prisoners. They had a code that no one could honorably return
unless all of the prisoners returned. Not only that code of honor, but the
honor of our country is at stake as long as even one man remains unjustly
held. It's time we brought our men home.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
Commander - United States Navy
Shot Down: June 21, 1966
Released: February 12, 1973
I am Cmdr. Cole Black and I was born and grew up on a farm back in
Minnesota. I attended a little school out in the country for the first eight
years of my formal education. I then went to high school at Lake City,
Minnesota. I enjoyed high school very much and became interested in sports.
I liked football and wrestling best. At age 17 I enlisted in the U.S. Navy
and spent five years working as an electronics technician.
After completing the officers candidate school at Newport Rhode Island I was
given a commission. I attended flight training and won my wings of gold in
February 1957. I then became a reccee (reconnaissance) pilot and spent four
years with Light Photographic Squadron 62 based at Cecil Field Florida.
After leaving that squadron in 1961 I attended the U.S. Naval Postgraduate
School at Monterey California where I received my B.S. degree in 1964. The
war in Vietnam was getting started and after leaving Monterey I was assigned
to Fighter- Squadron 211 based at Miramar California. I had completed one
combat cruise in Southeast Asia and had only seven days left on my second
cruise when I was shot down.
I was shot down on 21 June 1966 while flying an F8E of Fighter Squadron 211
based aboard the attack carrier Hancock. I was shot down north of Hanoi near
Kep airfield. I ejected from my disabled fighter at a very low altitude and
was captured by some Vietnamese peasants very shortly after I hit the ground.
The peasants did not treat me too badly. However, I was soon in the hands of
the VPA. On the way to Hanoi I was put on display for the local people. Some
of them were very hostile, others just curious. When I arrived at Hanoi I was
treated like an animal. The communists call it "reducing you to a dog."
Perhaps that is a good analogy because when they get done with you, you are
unable to use your hands and have to do things, such as eating, like a dog.
Soon after I arrived in Hanoi, on July 6, 1966, the communists saw fit to
display American POWs in Hanoi. We were hauled down town and forced to walk
through the streets of Hanoi while the local population humiliated, beat and
tried to intimidate us. It was probably the most real demonstration of mob
action I have or ever will see. I believe that even with the vice-like grip
the communists have on their people, the people nearly got out of hand that
night. In my opinion they were so keyed up they would have liked to have
killed us all.
During my tour in prison, I can say that I have come to know some of the
greatest guys in the world. We have known humiliation together; we have known
compassion together; we have suffered together and now that we are home we
once again, know the joy of being free and being in our great country. For me
the thoughts of returning to America and to loved ones inspired me throughout
my captivity. Even when you seem to be losing all else no one can take away
the precious memories you may have of the loved ones you left behind, the joys
you knew as a boy, the beauty of the country you will one day return to, and
all the kind things your father and mother have done for you.
I am very happy to be back and I feel very lucky to be here. I hope to stay in
the Air Force and serve my country once again.
Cole Black retired from the United States Navy as a Captain. He and his wife
Karen live in California.
In late 2002, Karen authored CODE OF CONDUCT, a novel, based on her own
and her husbands experiences as a Vietnam, former Prisoner of War.
It is available at www.code-of-conduct.com.
|A REAL TOP GUN
(My memory of an ex-POW)
(Copyright 2001) reprinted with permission
Among my reasons for writing this story is for Kristin,Sarah, and
Elicia, my lovely and intelligent nieces. All are much smarter than I,
though maybe each can gain something by reading this story. The something
I hope that each can gain is my wish that they each may be moved to
explore the nature of some important concepts such as loyalty, courage,
honor, respect, human endurance, and love of country through their
knowledge of the contributions and sacrifices of Captain Black, one of my
heroes. My hope also is that perhaps they may come to understand
something of war and, more importantly, to appreciate the importance of
and price paid for peace and freedom. Who knows, maybe one day they will
decide to seek those aviator "wings of gold". OK, girls. enjoy and learn
from the following:
"Good morning, Captain Cole." Just seconds after the last word left the
tip of my tongue, I knew that I’d screwed up. Screwed up big time. But it
was too late to correct my mistake.
His name was Cole Black. Captain Black, if you please: an O-6 Naval
officer, equivalent in rank to a bird colonel in the Army, Marine Corps,
or Air Force. He had been greeting attendees to the Monday morning
Command staff meeting as each person approached the doorway. My
nervousness in June 1979 about attending my first-ever such meeting at
Naval Air Station, NAS,
"Good morning, Captain Cole", I had said. What a barely functioning idiot
I was. Of that I was certain. Surely, I thought later, and for the good
of humanity, I deserved to be issued my formal Idiot's License. I'd just
passed the tepid requirements for such licensing.
Despite my mistake, I recall that Captain Black had simply smiled,
shook my hand, and acted as if nothing out of the ordinary had just
happened. "Good morning, Dan" is how he replied, while obviously excusing
my "civilian" gaff. Or at least I wanted desperately to believe that my
first faux pas in protocol had been somehow overlooked. Less confident
than ever before, I proceeded into the meeting room to take my seat
towards the rear of a long, rectangular table for my first-ever Command
level staff meeting at NAS Miramar. As the Executive Officer, XO, of NAS
CO, during those Monday morning staff meetings.
Both the CO and XO sat at the head of that long table, around which was
civilian personnel Department Head. During those meetings Captain Black
would interject his comments, opinions, and humorous remarks. Everyone
would quietly listen as he spoke. There always seemed to be a kind of
additional level of respect that would be accorded to Captain Black by
that Monday morning assembly of Department Heads. One could just feel it.
Additional respect was in the air. It was palpable. And, rightly so.
Naval Air Station Miramar was a special place in 1979. Captain Black,
the XO there, was a special man. By the time he was re-assigned to
another Navy duty station in 1981, I had by then worked for him for about
In 1979 NAS Miramar was also known as "
for training Navy and Marine Corps fighter pilots in the life and death
aerial ballet of dogfighting in jet-powered machines far above the earth’s
the 1986 release of the movie Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise. Maverick, the
young fighter pilot Cruise portrayed in the movie, was similar to the
Captain Black I knew: both had a boundless energy, an enthusiasm for what
they were doing, and a clarity of purpose. There the similarities ceased,
however. In 1979 Captain Black was by then a desk-bound Navy fighter
pilot, a Naval officer charged with administrative duties. Maverick was
just a fictional character, a celluloid jet jockey. Captain Black had
been the genuine article, the real deal, a bona fide sky warrior. He had
possessed the "right stuff". He was also a man who'd spent nearly seven
years as a prisoner of war, a POW, in
By 1979 I was a civilian in my early thirties working for the Navy. I
was a "sandcrab" in charge of civilian personnel administration at
Department Heads. I had served a 4 year enlisted tour with the Air Force
years before, getting out in 1971. I'd served my year in
1967-1968, at Tan Son Nhut Air Base(
down in 1966 while flying his F8E Crusader over
ever got to the South. He spent nearly seven years in
POW. In 1973 he was released from the Hanoi Hilton during Operation
Homecoming. Now in 1979, Captain Black was my immediate supervisor, my
boss. I knew of his past, or at least that part of his that most closely
paralleled that of mine. We never spoke about it.
Captain Black, or "XO", as I soon learned to call him, was a little
shorter than my nearly six feet. Yet, he was thickly and strongly built
and had a brisk and hearty handshake. An energetic man, his dark eyes
would fixate on anyone with whom he came in contact as he greeted people
with a broad, friendly smile. Even though he was in his late forties in
1979, one could not help but notice his youthful appearance, an
appearance which starkly contrasted with his nearly white hair.
"Dan, XO here. Can you come down to my office as soon as possible? Yes
sir, will be there shortly", I would reply as I started to hang up the
phone and reach for my topcoat.
I was always glad to get a phone call from the XO, even though I knew
it meant that something was "up" in the civilian side of the
house---something that I’d probably not heard about like a Congressional
inquiry regarding one of our civilian employees or a letter from our
civilian labor union that had been sent directly to the CO. I always
expected the unexpected when asked by Captain Black to come to his
Though assigned to desk duty, Captain Black was thoroughly a fighter
pilot in the truest sense. On a small table across from his desk there
stood a small, hand-held radio receiver. It was always on, monitoring the
aircraft/tower transmissions at
without those crackling radio sounds between the
fighter aircraft. Whether taxiing on the runway, taking off, or in the
process of landing, the tower/aircraft radio transmissions could clearly
be heard in the background during our meetings in his office.
Occasionally, his attention would be momentarily diverted if there were
transmissions of particular import, as only he would know. On one
occasion, and after hearing a particular radio exchange between aircraft
and tower, he invited me outside the Miramar Headquarters building to
view the runway action. There I proudly stood next to him, while my eyes
followed the direction his arm showed as he pointed towards a fighter
plane attempting a landing at
the action, though without fully understanding. While his body was
earthbound, Captain Black's spirit was surely with the pilot landing that
plane. That plane touched down and stopped safely.
October 1980. An open house and air show at NAS Miramar,
featuring the "Blue Angels". Though he was XO at
Captain Black, thoroughly a fighter pilot, helped to honcho that show.
E-2s, A-7s and 6s, F-4s, F-14s, F-5, F-8s and A-4s all took off at about
1230 hours. There was a flying formation as the national anthem was
played. The U.S. Navy Parachute Team did a demonstration for the
assembled audience, members of the public. There were many other
demonstrations of flight operations. The finale involved an aerial
demonstration by the "Blue Angels"... Navy fighter jets swooping and
swarming across and into the
a person, all the while. I knew that Captain Black was pleased by the air
Monday mornings at NAS Miramar. Those Command staff meetings began
sharply at 0900. Now that I think back I'm certain that each of the
attendees, and in his own way, must have listened to Captain Black with a
certain sense of respect and envy. Yes, envy. Certainly not for the
isolation, the torture and imprisonment that he had endured for so many
years as a POW. Rather, it was an envy, a jealousy, regarding the depth
of self-knowledge that he seemed to possess because of his POW
experience. His was a kind of self knowledge that none of us sitting
around that table had. For none of us, I believe, had been through a
similar crucible of human experience. How would I, or any of us for that
matter, have responded to the adversity that Captain Black had
experienced? Would I have been as strong as he? Who would I have become?
Would I have endured? What would I have become? Did I have the grit,
theresolve, resilience to endure as had Captain Black.?I didn't know
then, nor do I now know the answers to any of those questions. What I do
know is this...if I could fit into my old Air Force uniform, Captain
Black, I would salute you, sir. Was a pleasure working for you.
There were never any noteworthy exchanges between Captain Black and I
is how it should have been. But now is different and it is within today's
times that I say to Captain Black:
Welcome home, brother.
My daughter in law saw this video that Brad Paisley did on the USS Midway earlier this month, and recognized Cole's plane. I watched it and his plane is at 2:59 of the video, but the video itself is worth watching. Karen Black