COLLINS, WILLARD MARION Name: Willard Marion Collins Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 21 January 1929 Home City of Record: Quicy IL Date of Loss: 09 March 1966 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 160758N 1071956E (YC494849) Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: AC47 Refno: 0267 Other Personnel in Incident: Robert E. Foster; Delbert R. Peterson (both missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 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. NETWORK 1998. REMARKS: KIA AT CRASH S SED 3 RECOV-J SYNOPSIS: The AC47 introduced a new principle to air attack in Vietnam. Troubled by difficulties in conducting nighttime defense, Capt. Ronald Terry of the U.S. Air Force Aeronautical Systems Division recalled reading about missionaries in Latin America who lowered baskets of supplies on a rope from a tightly circling airplane. During the series of pylon turns, the basket remained suspended over a selected point on the ground. Could this principle be applied to fire from automatic weapons? Tests proved it could, and could be extremely successful. The aircraft chosen for this new principle was a version of the Douglas C47. It was dubbed, "Puff the Magic Dragon," after a popular song of the day, because it resembled a dragon overhead with flames billowing from its guns. In operation, Puff's "flare kicker" illuminated the target, then the pilot used a mark on his left window as a gun sight, and circled slowly as three multibarrel machine guns fired 18,000 rounds per minute from the door and two windows in the port side of the rear compartment. Ground troops welcomed the sight of Puff because of its ability to put a heavy dose of defensive fire in a surgically determined area. On March 9, 1966, Capt. Willard M. Collins, 1Lt. Delbert R. Peterson, and Ssgt. Robert E. Foster were part of the crew of an AC47 sent on a combat mission over the A Shau Valley in Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam. They were engaged in an effort to save a Special Forces firebase from being overrun by enemy troops. During the mission, the Puff was hit by enemy fire and crashed. After impact, three of the crew were rescued. According to these men, Foster was holding off enemy troops when the last attempt to rescue him failed. Of the three who were not rescued, Foster and Collins were declared Killed in Action and Peterson was declared Missing in Action. This suggests that at least Foster and Peterson, and perhaps all three, were alive at the time of the last futile rescue attempt. Since American involvement in Southeast Asia ended, over 10,000 reports have been received by the U.S. Government relating to Americans missing there. Many authorities have concluded that there are hundreds left alive in captivity today. When the United States left Southeast Asia, what was termed "peace with honor" was in reality an abandonment -- of the freedom-loving peoples of Vietnam and Laos, and of America's best men. It's time we brought our men home. Delbert R. Peterson was promoted to the rank of Major during the period he was maintained Missing in Action.