COLLINS, WILLARD MARION

Name: Willard Marion Collins
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit:  6250th Combat Support Group
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
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: AC47
Refno: 0267

Other Personnel in Incident: Robert E. Foster; Delbert R. Peterson (both
missing)

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.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

01/2020

https://dpaa.secure.force.com/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt0000000KYljEAG
 

CAPT WILLARD MARION COLLINS

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On March 9, 1966, an AC-47 Spooky (bureau number 44-76290) with six crew members was providing close air support in defense of the A Shau Special Forces Camp, which was under heavy enemy assault and in danger of being overrun. On its second pass at treetop level over the enemy, the Spooky was hit by enemy ground fire, which tore the right engine from its mounts and forced the pilot to crash land on a nearby mountainside, in the vicinity of grid coordinates YC 481 871. The crew set up a defensive perimeter around the aircraft but the enemy attacked again. Soon after, the crew made radio contact with a U.S. Army pilot, who then located the downed Spooky and directed additional U.S. aircraft to make passes over the area to suppress enemy fire. The downed crew eventually received word that rescue helicopters were en route but within a short while, enemy fire raked the side of the Spooky and killed two crew members. A third enemy assault began just as the rescue helicopter arrived; the helicopter rescued three of the remaining four crew members. The two crew members who died during the action, and the remaining crew member who was not rescued following the third assault, were not recovered and all remain unaccounted-for.

Captain Willard Marion Collins entered the U.S. Air Force from Illinois and served in the 6250th Combat Support Group. He was the pilot of this AC-47 when it was shot down on March 9, 1966, and was killed when enemy fire raked the downed aircraft before the rescue helicopter landed. His remains were not recovered at the time but were observed at the crash site by survivors from the special forces camp who investigated the site following the crash. Attempts following the war to recover his remains were unsuccessful, and he remains unaccounted-for. Today, Captain Collins is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Active Pursuit.

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