COLTMAN, WILLIAM CLARE
Remains Identified 02/2001
Name: William Clare Coltman
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 474 TFW 430th Tactical Fighter Squadron, pilot
Date of Birth: 24 February 1932
Home City of Record: Pittsburgh PA
Date of Loss: 29 September 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 213551N 1045921E (VJ989881)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Robert A. Brett, navigator, 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.
SYNOPSIS: The F111 was first used in Southeast Asia in March 1968 during
Operation Combat Lancer and flew nearly 3,000 missions during the war
despite frequent periods of grounding. From 1968 to 1973, the F111 was
grounded several months because of excess losses of aircraft. By 1969, there
had been 15 F111's downed by malfunction or enemy fire. The major
malfunctions involved engine problems and problems with the terrain
following radar (TFR) which reads the terrain ahead and flies over any
obstructions. Eight of the F111's downed during the war were flown by crews
that were captured or declared missing.
In September 1972 F111A's were returned to Southeast Asia after a long
grounding period. On September 29, 1972, the F111A flown by Maj. William C.
Coltman and commanded by 1Lt. Robert A. Brett, Jr. went out of radio contact
in North Vietnam on the Red River about 10 miles southwest of the city of
Yen Bai. When the aircraft failed to return from their mission, the two were
declared missing at the time of estimated fuel exhaustion.
A news release issued by North Vietnam claimed the downing of an F111 in the
same area near Yen Bai, but made no mention of the fate of the crew. A
second North Vietnamese news release, monitored by the BBC in Hong Kong,
claimed to have downed an F111 on September 28 and captured the crew. Brett
and Coltman were the only F111 aircrew operating in that area.
The National League of Families published a list in 1974 that indicated that
Robert A. Brett had survived the downing of his aircraft, and that the loss
location was in Laos, not North Vietnam.
The last missing F111A team to be shot down was Capt. Robert D. Sponeyberger
and 1Lt. William W. Wilson. Sponeyberger and Wilson were flying a typical
F111 tactical mission when they were hit - flying at supersonic speed only a
few hundred feet altitude. They were declared Missing in Action.
In 1973, however, Sponeyberger and Wilson were released by the North
Vietnamese, who had held them prisoner since the day their aircraft was shot
down. Their story revealed another possibility as to why so many F111's had
been lost. Air Force officials had suspected mechanical problems, but really
had no idea why the planes were lost because they fly singly and out of
radio contact. Capt. Sponeyberger and 1Lt. Wilson had ruled out mechanical
problems. "It seems logical that we were hit by small arms," Wilson said,
"By what you would classify as a 'Golden BB' - just a lucky shot."
Sponeyberger added that small arms at low level were the most feared weapons
by F111 pilots. The SAM-25 used in North Vietnam was ineffective at the low
altitudes flown by the F111, and anti-aircraft cannot sweep the sky fast
enough to keep up with the aircraft.
That a 91,000 pound aircraft flying at supersonic speeds could be knocked
out of the air by an ordinary bullet from a hand-held rifle or machine gun
is a David and Goliath-type story the Vietnamese must love to tell and
As reports continue to be received by the U.S. Government build a strong case
for belief that hundreds of these missing Americans are still alive and in
captivity, one must wonder if their retention provides yet another David and
Goliath story for Vietnamese propaganda. The F111 missions were hazardous
and the pilots who flew them brave and skilled. Fourteen Americans remain
missing from F111 aircrafts downed in Southeast Asia. If any of them are
among those said to be still missing, what must they be thinking of us?
Captain Kimberly Coleman was 12 when her father was declared MIA. She is now
a labor and delivery nurse at Kessler Air Force Base in Mississippi. In 1978
a marker was placed over an empty grave in Arlington national cemetery in
Virginia. Kimberly, her older brother, William Jr.; and their mother, Gail,
still had no details on the pilot's death. In 1993 in the basement of a
Hanoi museum, an American historian found a strobe light, a flight manual
and a smoke flare from a plane that crashed on the same day and in the
approximate vicinity as her father's. The weather is holding up crash
site excavation, a search for remains and personal effects.
William Jr. graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1980 and flew F-111's at
Royal Air Force Base in Lakenheath in England. He was an engineer at Falcon
Air Force Base in Colorado before leaving active duty. He is a Major in the
National League of Families 02/20/2002
AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: According to the Department of Defense, there are
now 1,942 Americans still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
The remains of air Force COL William C. Coltman of PA, missing in Laos
since September 29, 1972, were jointly recovered and repatriated on August
28, 2000. The remains of LtCol Lawrence G. Evert, USAF, from WY, missing
since November 8, 1967, were jointly recovered during successive field
operations beginning February 9, 2000. The remains of Navy LT Gene R.
Gollahon of OH, missing in Vietnam since August 13, 1965, were jointly
recovered April 26, 2000. The remains of Army Jon E. Swanson of CO and
S/SGT Larry G. Harrison of NC, both Killed-in-Action/Body-Not Recovered
February 26, 1971, were jointly recovered in Cambodia on July 1, 1992. In
addition, one Air Force officer, previously missing in North Vietnam, was
accounted for through identification of remains recovered during several
field operations beginning in January, 1997. No public announcement has yet
been made, though it is hoped that will soon occur. Of the total
unaccounted for, 1,464 are in Vietnam, 410 in Laos, 60 in Cambodia and 8 in
the territorial waters of the PRC. Over 90% of all Vietnam War missing were
lost in Vietnam or areas under its wartime control
Las Vegas Review Journal
Thursday, April 04, 2002
Copyright Las Vegas Review-Journal
VIETNAM PILOT: Home to Rest
Funeral gives closure to family of colonel who went missing in 1972
By STEVE TETREAULT
STEPHENS WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON -- "Wild Bill" Coltman made a name for himself at Nellis Air
Force Base in 1967 as one of the first to test the new F-111A tactical