Remains Returned March 12, 1991
Name: William Thomas "Tom" Costen
Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy
Age: 27
Home City: St. Louis MO
Date of Loss: 18 January 1991
Country of Loss: Iraq
Loss Coordinates:
Status: Missing in Action
Status is 2002: KIA Remains Returned
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: FA6
Other Personnel in Incident: Charlie Turner (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project  09 March 1991 from one
or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources,
published sources, interviews. Updated 2002 POW NETWORK.
SYNOPSIS: The Grumman A6 Intruder is a two-man all weather, low-altitude,
carrier-based attack plane, with versions adapted as aerial tanker and
electronic warfare platform. The A6A primarily flies close-air-support,
all-weather and night attacks on enemy troop concentrations, and night
interdiction missions. Its advanced navigation and attack system allows
small precision targets, such as bridges, barracks and fuel depots to be
located and attacked in all weather conditions, day or night. Their crews
are among the most talented and most courageous to serve the United States.
In the early days of hostilities in the Middle East, about one dozen
American pilots were shot down and declared missing. The Pentagon, reluctant
to release more information than was necessary, released only name, rank,
branch of service and age of each missing man. Family members, friends and
media sources reported more.
Tom Costen and Charlie Turner were assigned to Attack Squadron 155 at Whidby
Island, Washington which shipped out to the Middle East onboard the USS
RANGER when U.S. military buildup began there in January 1991. Costen and
Turner had been in the region only ten days when hostilities began and they
was asked to fly combat missions on Iraqi military targets in the first wave
of offensive strikes of the war. Costen was the pilot of an FA6 Intruder,
and Turner his navigator.
Costen's aircraft was apparently shot down and he failed to return from
missions on the morning of Friday, January 18, 1991. The Pentagon has been
reluctant to release information related to the Missing, and no information
is yet available as to location of loss or probability of survival. Costen's
parents, Dr. William S. Costen and Barbara Wilkins of St. Louis, state that
the Navy is still running search and rescue operations looking for him.
Later information revealed that an ejection signal had been heard, and that
two emergency radio beeper signals were picked up indicating that both
Turner and Costen successfully ejected from the aircraft. The two were
returning to the USS Ranger following a bombing mission when they were shot
On January 20, 1991, Associated Press released information that Navy Lt.
Charlie Turner of Minneapolis, Minnesota was missing. Turner's name as of
January 20 had not appeared on Pentagon lists, but the information was
received from family members that Turner was the bombadier/navigator of an
A6 lost on January 19, 1991 over Kuwait.
On January 20, 1991, a video interview of Allied POWs was broadcast on Iraqi
television. First the audio portion, then the video, were shown in the U.S.
by Cable News Network (CNN). Seven Allied POWs (including three Americans)
had been paraded through Bagdhad in a propaganda move and coerced into
making "peace" statements. All appeared to be speaking under extreme duress.
Turner and Costin were not shown or mentioned in the report. Also on January
20, the Iraqis stated that POWs would be used as "human shields" to protect
their important military sites from attack by  Allied forces.
On January 21, Scripps Howard News Service released a report out of
Ruweished, Jordan, quoting an eye witness who said he watched "an enraged
mob of Iraqis attack and butcher an American pilot after he was shot down
over Baghdad" on January 18. "I saw a plane get hit by fire from the ground
and a pilot came down in a parachute on Saadoun Street," said Al Nathari, a
Yemenite agriculture student who was among some 1,500 people who fled across
the Jordanian border on January 20. "The Iraqi people ran over to him and
beat him and cut him to pieces with knives," Al Nathari claimed. "The police
came and stopped them, but they came too late. The American was dead.
Asked how he knew the dead pilot was American, Al Nathari said he saw an
American flag on his flight suit.
The Pentagon denies any knowledge of the incident.
Amidst clearly inflated shoot-down reports issued by the Iraqis, and
reluctance by the Pentagon to release information, observers wait for news
of captured pilots, speculating on the treatment they are receiving. Iraq
has historically used prisoners for propaganda in an attempt to undermine
enemy morale while providing only "minimum food and shelter" to the
prisoners themselves. However, Iraq has not previously held prisoners with
the technical knowledge and expertise that U.S. pilots possess, and many
fear that the prisoners will be tortured for their knowledge more than used
for propaganda.
Those who recall the torture and degradation American POWs were subjected to
by the North Vietnamese can only wait and pray.
Those who recall the abandonment of American POWs in World War II (to the
Soviets), Korea and Vietnam are watching carefully, determined that men like
Turner will be returned alive, or fully accounted for, before American
troops leave the Middle East when hostilities cease.
Tom Costin was raised in Independence, Missouri and later moved to St.
Louis. He is a graduate of John Burroughs High School in Ladue, Missouri and
the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he received a
degree in physics. He has been in the Navy about six years. He is the son of
William Costin, and is a triathelete and steeplechase runner who enjoys
guitar and banjo playing as well as building furniture.
On March 12, 1991, the Iraqis handed over to the U.S. 14 allied dead.
According the the U.S. Government, one of these was Tom Costen.