William Francis Coakley

Lieutenant Commander
United States Navy
12 August 1933 - 13 September 1966
Lenox, Massachusetts
Panel 09E Line 132


Naval Aviator

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign
William F Coakley

The database page for William Francis Coakley

6 Jul 2002

My daughter played in the Lenox High School Memorial band when you were returned to the States. You were the only serviceman killed from Lenox. I just wanted your name on this wall so you would be remembered. I did not know you, but every person who died should be on this wall. GOD BLESS AMERICA AND ALL THE FREEDOMS YOU DIED FOR!

A memorial initiated by someone who remembers.
E-Mail may be forwarded via the

09 Dec 2002

In 1962, my Dad was serving with Attack Squadron 75 (VA-75) embarked in USS INDEPENDENCE. This photo shows him with then-Commander Jeremiah Denton. When VA-75 transitioned to the A-6A INTRUDER, Commander Denton became the Commanding Officer. He and his bombardier-navigator, Bill Tschudy, were shot down near Than Hoa on 18 July 1965 and endured nearly 7 years of captivity before being released on 12 February 1972. Commander Denton retired from the Navy as a Rear Admiral and afterwards served as a Senator from Alabama.

Jerry Denton and Bill Coakley

This photo was taken during the 1962 cruise. It is signed by each of the four pilots - from the bottom upwards they are Jeremiah Denton, Bill Boissenin, my father, and then Bob Starling.

I never knew my father,
but am looking for anyone that might have.

If you knew him please email me at
and put his name in the subject line.

From his daughter,
Tammy Yatim

07 Aug 2003

I've just received an e-mail from my dad's Commanding Officer, then-Commander Dave Leue', while he was in Attack Squadron 153 on board the USS Constellation. It has a picture of him taken about four months before his death:

Bill Coakley, 1966

The text of Captain Leue's e-mail follows:

From: "dleue2"
Subject: Re: William Francis Coakley
Date: Sat, 2 Aug 2003 23:21:24 -0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)

Dear Tammy,

I was Executive Officer of VA-153 when USS Constellation deployed to Vietnam in May 1966. I took over as CO in July 1966 during the cruise. My recollection is that Bill Coakley joined the squadron just prior to our deployment. He was an outstanding officer and it was a great loss when he was killed.

I recall the night he was lost. My log book shows I had flown that night, September 13, 1966, but I was not on the same mission as Bill. He was flying with LCDR Danny O'Connell. We flew in two plane sections during night attack missions. During this period of time our squadron's night mission was to try to stop the supplies of weapons that were flowing down through North Vietnam into South Vietnam. These supplies were brought in by Russian and Communist Block ships, then unloaded in Haiphong harbor. We were not allowed to attack these ships, although it is obvious that this would have been the least dangerous and most efficient strategy. These weapons then traveled at night by truck down Route 1 in North Vietnam, then over Mu Ghia Pass into Laos then into Cambodia and then into South Vietnam. Our job was to stop them on Route 1 in North Vietnam.

VA-153 was an outstanding A-4 attack squadron, that took this night mission very seriously. We had good success using tactics developed in the squadron. These were finding bottlenecks, such as bridges down or ferry crossings, dropping flares, then finding and attacking the stalled trucks at low altitude, under the flare. We burned many trucks, but many more got through.

You probably know most of what I know about Bill's loss. My recollection is that they were on Route 1 in the vicinity of Than Hoa. Danny O'Connell had flares out over a bridge or a ferry crossing and had finished his run under the flare. He climbed and was waiting for Bill to start his run. We operated lights out, one would stay high at about four thousand feet while the other made his run under the flare, so we never saw each other. Danny said "Bill, have you made your run yet?", your dad came back with "I'm trying Danny, I'm trying". They were good friends and were always kidding. Shortly thereafter, Danny observed a ball of fire on the ground and could get no response from Bill.

Several things could have occurred. They were always shooting at us, most likely they hit his airplane or him. It is also possible he flew into a low hill or misjudged his pull out or he wrapped it up too tight and stalled. There is no possibility of surviving the type of crash that resulted. The aircraft was travelling close to 400 MPH. I'm sure he died instantly and did not suffer.

During the two cruises I was in VA-153, we suffered the loss of 9 of our 12 airplanes, with the loss of six pilots. Although this was a terrible loss, I don't feel it was in vain. We really fought for people who didn't want to live under Communism. The Soviet Union is now gone. Bill, by his sacrifice help bring that about.

I have not heard from Danny O'Connell in years. If I find his number I will put him in touch with you.

I have enclosed the only picture I have of your dad, taken on USS Constellation in 1966.

Keep in touch,

Dave Leue'

I'm very grateful to Captain Leue', and to all the other men who served with and remember my father.

Tammy Yatin

2 Mar 2004

Bill Coakley and I entered flight training on the same day in July, 1954, as Naval Aviation Cadets. (NAVCADS). Both from Massachusetts, we met on the airline flight to Pensacola, became good friends, and went through flight training together.

In pre-flight, we nicknamed Bill, "Cautious Coakley" because he was never present when the rest of us were marching off demerits on Saturdays. Bill was not only first in our class, he became the regimental commander, the number one cadet in our regiment. His progress in basic flight training was equally stellar. He wanted jets for Advance training, but needs of the Navy sent him to Seaplane training in Corpus Christi, Texas. Upon receiving his wings, Bill volunteered to return to Pensacola as a flight instructor as a path to getting into jets. Finishing his tour as a flight instructor, he was further disappointed by assignment to a transport squadron.

Continuing to excel, he got a master's degree from Harvard and was assigned to the White House as an aide to President Johnson. Now he had some clout. His next assignment was to an A-4 Skyhawk attack squadron, but Bill and his dream were short lived. He gave the last full measure of devotion to his country when he was shot down over the Ho Chi Minh trail. I wrote the following poem for Bill, a great friend and a dedicated Naval officer. I have missed him.

Just Plain Bill

Hi diddle diddle, you're the lead fiddle
We launch on the bells you know.
Over the river and through the woods
To Grandmother's house we go.

Steady your nose on Minh's retort
The dish ran away with the spoon.
The little dog laughed to see such sport
Get close when we lose the moon.

Intelligence says the trail is alive
You may see a headlight or two
Just drop your load in the heart of the road
With so many kids in one shoe?

What was that flash? Bill took a hit
He had a great fall from the wall.
Did he get out? The clock struck one
I saw a flash. That was all.

Jack and Jill went up the hill
Too low for a chute to go
Jack fell down and broke his crown
His fleece was white as snow.

Mark Keaney

From a friend,
Mark Keaney

19 Apr 2007


My name is Grace Coakley, Bill was my great uncle. When my mother was 6 years old, her two uncles died within one month. My grandfather (Bill's younger brother) had three brothers - Bill, the oldest, Walter, and Joe. When the news that Bill died came, our family was in a horrible state. Before Bill left us, his youngest brother Joe was killed in a car crash. He was sixteen years old. My uncle never got the news. My great-grandmother lost two of her four boys within one month. I say this, because it has changed all of our lives.

I am very grateful that his life is being memorialized and honored. He was a great man, and lived his life to the fullest. I have never heard of him having a daughter until now, but thank you very much for making this page.

My uncle Walter recently passed away, and with his belongings I found many of Bill's that he kept. The belongings found were childhood toys and article clippings. Walter and Bill were the closest of the brothers. In Lenox, Massuchusetts there is a mural painted on a wall in town. Bill's face is painted on it to remember him. He was a very important member of our family, and he has and will always be rembered dearly.

With Love and Care,
Grace Coakley
E-Mail will be forwarded by the

A Note from The Virtual Wall

On 13 Sep 1966, two A-4C SKYHAWKs of Attack Squadron 153 launched from USS CONSTELLATION on a night armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. In this type of mission, one aircraft lights up the target using aerial flares while the other actually takes the illuminated target under attack.

Captain Leue' has provided a description of the tactics used by Attack Squadron 153 during night armed reconnaissance missions:

"After tanking on the way to the beach we split up, the wingman would go to 5000 feet, the leader would stay at 4000 feet. We operated lights out and coordinated by radio calling headings and speeds, the flare was the rendezvous point. The direction of runs was pre-briefed, usually north or south, up or down the road. We would coast in on radar, then find a pre planned bridge or ferry crossing on route 1 or 116. After the flares were dropped the lead would make a low pass (200'-300') under the flares to one side of the road and call the location of trucks to the wingman. Our runs were flat, we acquired the road as we rolled in, then the road led to the trucks. Usual weapons were snakeye retarded bombs, 20MM canon and CBU 2A. We would call "in" starting a run and "off" as we pulled up. The lead would coordinate the dropping of flares as required.

"We almost never saw each other during the attack phase."

Since the flight lead, LCDR O'Connell, observed the crash, saw no parachute, and was unable to establish radio contact with Coakley, Coakley was classed as Killed in Action/Body not Recovered.

On 15 December 1988, the North Vietnamese turned over a number of human remains to U.S. control. On 23 May 1989 the government announced that the remains of LCDR William F. Coakley had been positively identified.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
his daughter,
Tammy Yatim

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 6 Jul 2002
Last updated 09/19/2007