Calvin Coolidge Cooke, Jr.
Sergeant, United States Air Force
RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
No. 380-06 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 1, 2006
Media Contact: (703)697-5131 Public/Industry(703)428-0711
Air Force Sergeants MIA from Vietnam War Identified
The Department of Defense POW/ Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of two servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified.
They are Technical Sergeant Donald R. Hoskins, Madison, Indiana, and Staff Ssergeant Calvin C. Cooke, Washington, D.C. A third person from the crew, Major Harry A. Amesbury, has been previously identified. The funeral for Cooke will be at Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington D.C. on June 20, with full military honors.
On April 26, 1972, Amesbury was piloting a C-130E Hercules to An Loc City, South Vietnam for an emergency resupply mission. Hoskins and Cooke were among those aboard the aircraft when it was hit by enemy fire and crashed. Enemy activity prevented any recovery attempts until three years later in 1975 when a Vietnamese search team recovered artifacts and remains that were later identified as belonging to another crewman.
In 1988, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) confiscated remains from a Vietnamese national in Ho Chi Minh City and returned them to the U.S. custody. The Vietnamese attributed the remains to Cooke.
In April 1989, a Vietnamese woman living in Thailand told U.S. interviewers that she witnessed the crash of a C-130 in 1972 near An Loc City. She was a schoolteacher at the time of the incident but moved due to hostilities in the area. She told interviewers that two of her former students found the complete remains of one of the crewmen, a uniform, identification tags and other items they were keeping at one of their homes. The students gave her a bone fragment and information from the identification tag of Amesbury, both of which she turned over to the interviewers.
The S.R.V. repatriated additional remains to the United States in June 1989, and January and November of 1991 that were attributed to Cooke and Amesbury.
In 1992, a joint U.S.-S.R.V. team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), interviewed several Vietnamese nationals who claimed to have recovered remains from a C-130 crash site near An Loc. The villagers recalled finding a flight suit and almost the complete skeletal remains of one of the crewmen. One of them led the joint team to the crash site and another turned over several small fragments of bone and an identification tag rubbing for Amesbury.
Another joint team returned to the crash site for excavation in 1993 where they recovered additional remains, personal effects and crew related artifacts.
The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia contacted JPAC officials in 1998 about a woman living in Georgia who had remains and personal artifacts attributed to Amesbury. Those were turned over to JPAC as part of the evidence associated with this case.
JPAC scientists and Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) specialists used mitochondrial DNA as one of the forensic tools to help identify the remains. Laboratory analysis of dental remains also confirmed their identifications.
Of those Americans unaccounted for from all conflicts, 1,805 are from the Vietnam War. Another 841 Americans have been accounted for in Southeast Asia since the end of the war, with 601 of those from Vietnam.
For additional information on the Defense Department's
mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO
Website or call (703)-699-1169.
3 May 2006:
Remains of D.C., Indiana Air Sergeants identified
The Defense Department announced yesterday that it had identified the remains of two Air Force crew members -- one of them from the District -- who were killed when their plane was shot down in Vietnam 34 years ago.
A spokesman identified the two as Staff Sergeant Calvin C. Cooke of Washington and Technical Sergeant Donald R. Hoskins of Madison, Indiana. Their remains were identified in March at the Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii.
Cooke, who was known as Grady, and Hoskins were among seven people aboard a C-130 cargo plane that was trying to conduct a low-level air drop to resupply South Vietnamese forces surrounded at the city of An Loc, said Larry Greer, a spokesman for the Pentagon's Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office.
On April 26, 1972, the plane left Tan Son Nhut Air Base outside Saigon for a hazardous night drop. During its run, the aircraft was hit by ground fire and crashed into the countryside, killing everyone onboard. Cooke, one of the airplane's loadmasters, had just turned 26.
Greer said information and artifacts from the plane and its personnel had been gathered piecemeal since 1975, when a Vietnamese search team first checked the site. Over the years, as artifacts were recovered and sorted, and DNA tests were run on fragments of bone and teeth, remains of other crew members were identified.
Greer said several of those onboard remain unaccounted for. Cooke's remains will be buried next month in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
One of Cooke's daughters, Angela, of Everett, Washington, said her father was married and had three young daughters at the time of his death. She said in a telephone interview last night that she has vague childhood memories of him but a clearer recollection of the day the family learned of the crash.
"Just the sadness," she said, "and I always kind of wondered if he would ever come back. It's just kind of nice to finally have closure. He was a hero, definitely."
D.C. Vietnam Airman To Be Buried At Arlington
3 May 2006
The Pentagon has identified the remains of a U.S. airman from the District who was reported missing during the Vietnam War.
Staff Sergeant Calvin Cooke was identified through DNA analysis of his dental remains.
Cooke was 26 years old in 1972 when his cargo plane was shot down over South Vietnam along with six other servicemen, who were on the flight.
Cooke was married.
He will be buried with full military honors
at Arlington National cemetery in June 2006.
The U.S. government declared her father dead — killed in action — in 1972 after his Hercules transport plane was shot down during an emergency resupply mission over An Loc City, Vietnam.
Yet on her wedding day 20 years later, Melissa McCoy half-expected to see him among the crowd of loved ones who filled the church sanctuary.
"I thought, if he's out there, he's going to show up," said McCoy, 38, of Marysville. "You just cling to hope."
Three weeks ago, a phone call ended any lingering. It was from her Aunt Darlene in Virginia, who said a military laboratory in Hawaii using DNA tests to identify remains from Vietnam had positively identified those of her father, Staff Sergeant Calvin Coolidge Cooke Jr.
"I started crying the instant I heard," she said. "It was a shock. It was like, you finally know."
As McCoy spoke with her aunt, a concerned coworker fetched her a tissue and hovered nearby to see what was wrong. She grabbed a pad and scribbled a few key words: "Dad found — 34 years — Vietnam — remains."
Vietnam vets who knew Cooke have contacted his daughters through the Web site www.patriotguard.org, and some plan to attend his June 20, 2006, memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The motorcycle club's main mission is attending the funeral services of "fallen American heroes," as a gesture of respect and to shield families from any political protesters. Melissa McCoy said she found the site, and posted on its message board, through "the karmic intervention of Google."
She left work early, then started spreading the news. First she called her older sister, Angela Cooke, in Everett. Then her younger sister, Laurel Cooke, in Wisconsin, and finally their mom, Carol Anderson, who lives in Everett with her second husband.
"She just blurted it out," said Angela Cooke, 39, who was 5 when her father's plane crashed. "I was in shock — I made a lot of mistakes when I went back in to work."
Now the three sisters and Anderson plan to fly to Honolulu to escort Cooke's coffin to Arlington National Cemetery for a June 20 memorial and burial. While in Hawaii, they'll go to the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory to thank the scientists who solved the mystery of their father's fate.
"I think it's fitting that all four of us are going," McCoy said. "He never got to come home to his family, so we'll go to him and bring him home."
The POW/Missing Personnel Office on Monday publicly announced the identification of Cooke's remains. He was among seven people — six American and one Vietnamese — on a C-130E when it was shot down April 26, 1972. Remains of two of the Americans haven't yet been identified.
The U.S. military and the Vietnamese government for decades collected skeletal remains and personal belongings found at the crash site. Some items were in the safekeeping of local villagers; others were excavated by search teams, the Department of Defense said.
The first trace of Cooke surfaced in 1985, when the Socialist Republic of Vietnam sent the U.S. a rubbing of his dog tag and offered to deliver "one set of U.S. remains." Other potential remains were recovered in 1989 and 1991.
Cooke's family first was thrown in the national spotlight eight years ago, when the Tomb of the Unknowns at the Arlington cemetery was opened to remove some bones. DNA tests, unavailable when the bones were interred in 1984, were to be used to determine the soldier's identity, and Cooke was among nine possibilities.
But the bones belonged to Lieutenant Michael Blassie, an Air Force fighter pilot whose plane went down in the same general area as the one Cooke was on.
"At that time, we all wanted closure," McCoy said.
Cooke's family wasn't aware that the lab in Hawaii had continued to work on Cooke's case, using genetic material originally obtained from two of his sisters for the 1998 tomb investigation.
"Our story is going to give a lot of people hope," McCoy said. "Just knowing that we finally have our closure, and that the government is still working to identify them."
Cooke grew up in Maryland and joined the Air Force after he graduated from high school. He met Anderson, a Stanwood native, while stationed at the former Paine Field Air Force Base. They married young — he was 19, Anderson 18.
"The young ladies back then, they thought that if you were in love, you should get married before they left" for Vietnam, she said.
Their youngest child, Laurel, was only 20 months old when Cooke died; unlike her sisters, she has no memories of him. That's hard, she said.
"I have my good days and my bad days," she said. "Every time I hear anything or see anything, I start crying. I guess it's just a long drug-out grief."
Laurel Cooke said she has found some solace through an Internet exchange with one of her father's Air Force friends whom she recently "met" on the Web site www.virtualwall.org.
"He said my dad talked about me, and that's
nice. He's going to come to the funeral."
10 June 2006:
This is the story of three sisters. The oldest of the three remembers an old photograph: she's sitting on her dad's shoulders.
The youngest sister was too young to remember him at all. And the third, Melissa, tries to remember as much as she can.
"I remember when he would come home," said Melissa McCoy. Her memory of her father is the memory of a four year old girl. "And just that feeling of excitement and anticipation that you know your daddy's coming home."
Only in that memory she says she only sees his legs walking up the sidewalk and the greasy hands of an Air Force mechanic reaching out to hold her.
"The one thing that I don't remember is I don't remember his face." Because the last time she saw her dad was 34 years ago.
"His face," she said of that persistent memory, "It's just not there."
Air Force Staff Sergeant Calvin Cooke Jr. disappeared in Vietnam. He was one of seven men who vanished when their C-130 crashed.
His widow, Carole Anderson, lives in Everett remembers the day the men in uniform walking up her sidewalk. "And it just hit me that it was bad news," she said.
The bad news reached the young bride and her daughters in April of 1972. Angela Cooke was the oldest, she was five, and she remembers that day too.
"I remember that day, yeah," she told us fighting back tears these 34 years later. "People in uniform you know. And I kind of knew that too."
"I remember people sitting together and holding each other and crying and I knew something was wrong," said Melissa.
So a young widow grieved and moved on. Three little girls grew up without their dad.
But just eight years ago they thought they found their father here in the U.S. The military told them that of the remains already recovered in Vietnam that Calvin Cooke Jr. might already be buried in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. But DNA proved they thought wrong. It wasn't Calvin. So he faded away again.
The phone call they were waiting for finally reached Melissa in April of this year, nearly 34 years to the day since her dad disappeared.
"She said 'they found your dad. They've identified your dad,' " she remembers of the phone call she got at work in Everett.
They know now that Calvin Cooke's plane crashed near An Loc City, South Vietnam. Archaeologists had searched it years before, but not until 2006 did remains tested at the military identification lab in Hawaii finally reveal a match for Calvin Cooke. Investigators had found yet another lost husband and father. Calvin Cooke Jr. would be coming home.
"I've had more memories since finding out than I did before," said Angela. "Kind of like they were shut out you know."
Now with those memories flooding back, Angela, Melissa, their younger sister Laurel, and their mom will fly to Hawaii next week to accompany their father home.
"And finally be able to say goodbye," Angela said fighting back the tears that she admits seem to come more freely now.
They will also travel with their father's remains to Arlington National Cemetery where he will be buried with full military honors on June 20, 2006.
It is a long trip, and a 34-year-long journey, for three little girls who only knew their dad in photographs and from his name on the Vietnam Wall.
"He was a 26-year-old guy, had a wife and three daughters," said Melissa letting her emotions surface after all these years. "And he's proud to be on that wall."
"He was a hero," Angela added.
Their hero. Their dad. Finally coming home.
By Jim Goldsworthy
CUMBERLAND TIMES-NEWS (CUMBERLAND, Md.)
22 June 2006
Grady Cooke was laid to rest Tuesday in Arlington National Cemetery, home at last in the good earth of the nation in whose service he died more than 34 years ago.
He joins his parents and two grandparents who were already interred there.
“Three days ago was my mother’s birthday,” said Cooke’s brother David during funeral services at the nearby Fort Myer Chapel.
To know that her son’s remains have been returned home “would probably have been the greatest gift we could have given her,” he said.
“Grady” was the family’s nickname for Air Force Staff Sergeant Calvin Coolidge Cooke Jr., a loadmaster on a cargo plane that was shot down near An Loc in Vietnam in April 1974.
Initial recovery efforts were impossible because of intense enemy activity, but the remains of four members of Cooke’s six-man crew have now been repatriated.
Cooke was ultimately identified because for a time, it was believed he might have been interred in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery.
The unknown’s remains had been recovered in the area where Cooke’s C-130E had been shot down. Only nine Americans were known to have been lost there, and Cooke was one of the possibilities.
Members of each family provided DNA samples, and when the unknown’s remains were exhumed in 1998, DNA testing determined the body was that of Air Force First Lieutenant Michael J. Blassie of St. Louis.
DNA samples from the other families were then compared to other unidentified remains.
That is how Cooke and another member of his crew, Technical Sergeant Donald R. Hoskins of Madison, Indiana, were identified earlier this year by scientists of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Hawaii.
Cooke’s widow, Carol Anderson, has since remarried. They had three daughters, Melissa McCoy, Angela Cooke and Laurel Cooke. All four accompanied his remains on the flight home from Honolulu.
Cooke grew up in Capitol Heights, near Washington. His sister Marie O’Donnell is a longtime resident of Carpendale, West Virginia.
“I was overwhelmed by the turnout for Grady’s funeral,” she said. It was attended not just by family and friends, but others who didn’t know him but came to celebrate that another of America’s missing from the Vietnam War had returned home.
In attendance were 32 representatives of Cumberland Chapter 172 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, and about two dozen motorcyclists from Patriot Guard Riders and Rolling Thunder — bikers who are veterans and frequently attend military funerals.
There were three volleys of rifle fire, a fly over by a C-130 Hercules similar to the one in which Cooke was shot down, and presentation of folded flags to his family ... a gesture of appreciation from a grateful nation.
“That could have been any one of us down there,” said one veteran, who watched from a distance.
David Cooke said this was not a sad day for him and his family.
“My sad day was the day we lost him ... the day my mother and father were crying,” he said. “I’m glad to be here today to welcome him home.”
Cooke said he wears a black POW/MIA flag pin in his lapel that “some people say should now be going away. I wear it for all POWs and MIAs who should be coming home. That flag will not go away until all of them have returned home.
“There are still 1,805 missing from Vietnam, and now we have four missing in Iraq,” he said.
After the interment, Cooke’s family and the Chapter 172 veterans went to the Vietnam War Memorial to find his name on the Wall. It’s on line 7 of panel 1W, next to the names of his crew mates: aircraft commander Maj. Harry A. Amesbury of Morrison, Ill.; Capt. Kurt F. Weisman of Jasper, Ind., the co-pilot; 1st Lt. Richard L. Russell, navigator, of Snyder, Texas; T/Sgt. Richard E. Dunn, loadmaster, of Terryville, Conn.; and Hoskins, the flight engineer. The remains of Russell and Dunn are yet to be identified and repatriated.
Blassie’s name is below their names, and so are those of 85 members of a Chapter 172 member’s Marine unit, including that of his bunkmate.
Another chapter member has a brother who once served on the Old Guard, the Third United States Infantry Regiment, which guards the Tomb of the Unknowns.
He said his brother told him that during the height of the Vietnam War, there were frequently 35 or more burials a day at Arlington.
“Forget eight-hour days,” he said. “Sixteen- or 18-hour days is more like it.” Cooke’s burial was one of five conducted Tuesday.
O’Donnell and her family spent time afterward talking to some of the group from Cumberland and having pictures taken with them.
“Thank you for coming such a long way,” she said.
“That was nothing,” replied one of the Chapter
172 members. “Thirty-four years is a long trip.”
Unidentified veterans salute the casket of Staff Sergeant Calvin Cooke Jr., who was shot down in
Vietnam in 1972, during a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, June 20, 2006