COLLINS, WILLARD MARION
Name: Willard Marion Collins
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
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
Other Personnel in Incident: Robert E. Foster; Delbert R. Peterson (both
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 2020.
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.