Remains Returned 03/05/1996
Remains identified 08/12/2003 (Group Burial)
The internment service was at Arlington December 19, 2003
Name: Richard Waller Cooper, Jr.
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force, NAV
Unit: 307th Strat Wing, Utapao AB TH
Date of Birth: 18 November 1942
Home City of Record: Salisbury MD
Date of Loss: 19 December 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 205900N 1054359E (WJ762203)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: B52D
Others In Incident: Charlie S. Poole (missing); Henry C. Barrows; Hal K. Wilson;
Fernando Alexander; Charles A. Brown, Jr. (all POWs released in 1973).
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project  01 April 1991 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: Frustrated by problems in negotiating a peace settlement, and
pressured by a Congress and public wanting an immediate end to American
involvement in Vietnam, President Nixon ordered the most concentrated air
offensive of the war - known as Linebacker II - in December 1972. During the
offensive, sometimes called the "Christmas bombings," 40,000 tons of bombs were
dropped, primarily over the area between Hanoi and Haiphong. White House Press
Secretary Ronald Ziegler said that the bombing would end only when all U.S. POWs
were released and an internationally recognized cease-fire was in force.
On the first day of Linebacker II, December 18, 129 B52s arrived over Hanoi in
three waves, four to five hours apart. They attacked the airfields at Hoa Lac,
Kep and Phuc Yen, the Kinh No complex and the Yen Vien railyards. The aircraft
flew in tight cells of three aircraft to maximize the mutual support benefits of
their ECM equipment and flew straight and level to stabilize the bombing
computers and ensure that all bombs fell on the military targets and not in
civilian areas.
The pilots of the early missions reported that "wall-to-wall SAMS" surrounded
Hanoi as they neared its outskirts. The first night of bombing, December 18 and
19, two B52s were shot down by SAMs.
Onboard the first aircraft shot down on December 18 was its pilot, LTCOL Donald
L. Rissi and crewmen MAJ Richard E. Johnson, CAPT Richard T. Simpson, CAPT
Robert G. Certain, 1LT Robert J. Thomas and SGT Walter L. Ferguson. Of this
crew, Certain, Simpson and Johnson were captured and shown the bodies of the
other crew members. Six years later, the bodies of Rissi, Thomas and Ferguson
were returned to U.S. control by the Vietnamese. Certain, Simpson and Johnson
were held prisoner in Hanoi until March 29, 1973, when they were released in
Operation Homecoming.
Capt. Hal K. Wilson was in the lead aircraft of a B52 cell from Utapao. Also on
board his aircraft were crew men MAJ Fernando Alexander, CAPT Charles A. Brown,
Jr., CAPT Henry C. Barrows, CAPT Richard W. Cooper Jr. (the navigator), and SGT
Charlie S. Poole (the tailgunner). Wilson's aircraft was hit by a SAM near his
target area and crashed in the early morning hours of December 19, sustaining
damage to the fuselage. In the ensuing fire, there was no time for orderly
bailout, but as later examination of radio tapes indicated, all six crewmen
deployed their parachutes and evidently safely ejected. The aircraft damage
report indicated that all six men were prisoner.
Radio Hanoi announced in news broadcasts between 19 and 22 December that the six
crewmen had been captured. When the war ended, however, only four of the crew
returned from Hanoi prisons. Hanoi has remained silent about the fate of Charlie
Poole and Richard Cooper.
The Christmas Bombings, despite press accounts to the contrary, were of the most
precise the world had seen. Pilots involved in the immense series of strikes
generally agree that the strikes against anti-aircraft and strategic targets was
so successful that the U.S., had it desired, "could have taken the entire
country of Vietnam by inserting an average Boy Scout troop in Hanoi and marching
them southward."
To achieve this precision bombing, the Pentagon deemed it necessary to stick to
a regular flight path. For many missions, the predictable B52 strikes were
anticipated and prepared for by the North Vietnamese. Later, however, flight
paths were altered and attrition all but eliminated any hostile threat from the
Linebacker II involved 155 Boeing B52 Stratofortress bombers stationed at
Anderson AFB, Guam (72nd Strat Wing) and another 50 B52s stationed at Utapao
Airbase, Thailand (307th Strat Wing), an enormous number of bombers with over
one thousand men flying the missions. However, the bombings were not conducted
without high loss of aircraft and personnel. During the month of December 1972,
61 crewmembers onboard ten B52 aircraft were shot down and were captured or
declared missing. (The B52 carried a crew of six men; however, one B52 lost
carried an extra crewman.) Of these 61, 33 men were released in 1973. The others
remained missing at the end of the war. Over half of these survived to eject
safely. What happened to them?
Reports mount that have convinced many authorities that Americans are still held
captive in Southeast Asia. Are Poole and Cooper among them? Do they know the
country they love has abandoned them? Isn't it time we found them and brought
them home?
NOTE: The Egress report states "B52 compartment full of fire, Cooper failed
to eject. fireball, desinigration."
December 21, 2003
RE:  a message from Jennifer Cooper after her dads service on Friday at
Arlington.  Her grandmother, Connie Cooper died the morning after the
funeral, it is the family's belief that she was finally able to let go
after finally being able to bury her son.