COATES, DONALD LEROY
Name: Donald Leroy Coates
Rank/Branch: E6/US Marine Corps
Unit: VMGR 152, 1st Marine Air Wing
Date of Birth: 19 January 1937
Home City of Record: Tigard OR
Date of Loss: 01 February 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 172038N 1072217E (YE520190)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel In Incident: Peter Vlahakos; Albert M. Prevost; Russell B.
Luker; Galen F. Humphrey; Richard A. Alm (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 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: The Lockheed C130 Hercules was one of the most important aircraft
used in Vietnam. It served many purposes, among them transport, tanker,
gunship, drone controller, airborne battlefield command and control center,
weather reconnaissance craft, electronic reconnaissance platform, search,
rescue and recovery.
The U.S. Marines employed the KC130F version which served primarily as a
probe-and-drogue refueling plane, although when the rubber fuel bladders
were removed from the cargo compartment, the plane also served as a
transport. The KC130F was capable of refueling two aircraft simultaneously.
On February 1, 1966, a U.S. Marine Hercules tanker was operating in the Gulf
of Tonkin near the coast of North Vietnam, about 10 miles north of the
island of Hon Co. During a refueling operation, the tanker was hit by ground
fire and crashed into the ocean. All crew onboard the aircraft were
considered to have died in the crash of the plane.
The pilot of the aircraft was 1LT Albert M. Prevost; crew chief SSGT Peter
G. Vlahakos; other crew members included Maj. Richard A. Alm; SSGT Donald L.
Coates; GYSGT Galen F. Humphrey, navigator; and SSGT Russell B. Luker. All
were declared Killed in Action, Bodies Not Recovered.
According to family members of the crew, however, it was reported that there
was not a single piece of wreckage to be found. This seems improbable for an
aircraft weighing in excess of 60,000 pounds involved in a crash -
especially one carrying a jet fuel cargo. Some family members are suspicious
of the reported circumstances of the crash and believe it may have occurred
elsewhere, thus explaining the lack of wreckage found.
Regardless, if the Marine Corps crash site location is accurate, there can
be no question someone was aiming the gun that shot the aircraft down.
Someone knows the fate of the aircraft and crew. Beyond those on the ground,
the shoreline of Vietnam was heavily trafficked by fishermen and patrol
boats. There is no doubt that the Vietnamese could account for the men
onboard the KC130 lost near Ho Co Island on February 1, 1966.
Since American involvement in the war in Southeast Asia ended, over 10,000
reports relating to Americans prisoner, missing, or unaccounted for in
Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government. Many authorities,
having reviewed this largely-classified information have concluded that
hundreds of Americans are still alive in captivity today.
Perhaps the entire crew of seven perished on February 1, 1966. But, perhaps
they are among those experts believe are still alive, still held prisoner.
We cannot forget a single man, lest he be left behind. They must all be