Remains Returned 15 December 1988 - ID Announced 23 June 1989

Name: Joseph Bernard Copack, Jr.
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force, NAV
Unit: 307th Strategic Wing, Utapao Airfield, Thailand
Date of Birth: 04 August 1947
Home City of Record: Chicago IL
Loss Date: 22 December 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 212500N 1062500E (WJ866264)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: B52D

Other Personnel In Incident: Thomas W. Bennett; (missing); Peter Camerota, Peter
Giroux; Louis E. LeBlanc (all three returned POWs in 1973); Gerald W. Alley
(remains returned)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 31 April 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.


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.

In early December 1972, several men stationed at Utapao, Thailand sent Christmas
presents home and readied themselves for a few final runs they would have to
make before Christmas. They were looking forward to returning to Thailand in
time to see Bob Hope on December 22. They never saw Bob Hope, and none of them
returned for Christmas.

On December 22, a B52D crew consisting of Capt. Thomas W. Bennett, co-pilot;
LtCol. Gerald W. Alley; Capt. Peter P. Camerota, bombardier; 1Lt. Joseph B.
Copack, Jr., navigator; Capt. Peter J. Giroux, pilot; and MSgt. Louis E.
LeBlanc, tailgunner; departed Utapao on a bombing mission over Hanoi.

When the B52D was about 50 miles northwest of Hanoi, it was hit by Surface to
Air Missiles (SAM). Bennett called the mayday and manually ejected the pilot,
who had blacked out and then bailed out himself. The tailgunner later reported
that he observed in the bright moonlight that the entire crew of six had
deployed parachutes. Three of them, Camerota, Giroux and LeBlanc were released
from prisoner of war camps in Hanoi a few months later in the general prisoner
release of 1973. The U.S. was not expecting them. They had not known that the
three were being held prisoner. Alley, Copack and Bennett were not released and
remained Missing in Action.

During the month of December, 62 crewmembers of B52 aircraft were shot down and
captured or went missing. Of these 62, 33 men were released in 1973. The remains
of about a dozen more have been returned over the years, and the rest are still
missing. At least 10 of those missing survived to eject safely. Where are they?

As reports mounted following the war convinced many authorities that hundreds of
Americans were still held captive in Southeast Asia, many families wonder if
their men were among those said to be still alive in captivity, and are
frustrated at inadequate efforts by the U.S. Government to get information on
their men.

On June 23, 1989, the U.S. announced that the Vietnamese had "discovered" the
remains of Gerald W. Alley and Josepg B. Copack and had sent them home at last.
For 17 years, Alley and Copack - alive or dead - were prisoners in enemy hands.
Their families at last know for certain that their sons are dead. What they may
never know, however, is how - and when - they died, and if they knew that their
country had abandoned them.

Gerald W. Alley was promoted to the rank of Colonel, Thomas W. Bennett was
promoted to the rank of Major and Joseph B. Copack was promoted to the rank of
Captain during the period they were maintained missing.




Return to Service Member Profiles

On June 20, 1989, the Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii (CILH, now DPAA) identified the remains of Captain Joseph Bernard Copack Jr., missing from the Vietnam War.

Captain Joseph Bernard Copack Jr. joined the U.S. Air Force from Illinois and was a member of the 22nd Bombardment Squadron. On December 22, 1972, he was the navigator aboard a B-52D Stratofortress (tail number 550061) on a night strike mission over Hanoi, Vietnam. The B-52D was downed by a surface-to-air missile during the mission, and Capt Copack died in the incident. Heavy enemy presence in the area precluded search and recovery efforts for Capt Copack and the rest of the B-52D's crew. In December 1988, the Vietnamese government returned a set of unidentified remains to U.S. custody that were later identified as those of Capt Copack. 

Captain Copack is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. 

If you are a family member of this serviceman, you may contact your casualty office representative to learn more about your service member.