Adams County











POSTED ON 3.9.2020
POSTED BY: A Grateful Vietnam Veteran

Distinguished Flying Cross Award

Captain Willard M Collins was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism and extraordinary achievement while engaged in aerial flight. He served as a Pilot, Tactical Aircraft, and was assigned to the 4th Air Commando Squadron, 6259th Combat Support Group, 14th Air Commando Group, 14th Air Commando Wing, 13th Air Force.
See https://valor.militarytimes.com/hero/3543
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POSTED ON 5.22.2018
POSTED BY: Bob Ahles, Vietnam Vet, St. Cloud, Minnesota

A Shau Valley

The Special Forces camp in the A Shau Valley was well located to monitor and interfere with North Vietnamese infiltration from Laos and for that reason drew special attention from the NVA commanders. In the early morning hours of 09 March 1966, the camp's defenders - 17 US and 375 ARVN troops - came under attack by an estimated 2000 NVA troops. Bad weather prevailed at the time, with cloud bases below the level of the surrounding mountaintops, severely limiting supporting air strikes. C-123 flareships could and did drop aerial flares through the clouds, thereby providing illumination for the defenders.
By mid-morning of the 9th the defenders were in dire straits, but the cloud bases had lowered to about 400 above ground. Despite the weather, an AC-47D (tail number 44-76290) of the 4th Air Commando Squadron managed to work its way below the clouds and commenced firing passes against the NVA troops massed at the camp's outer perimeter. On its second pass the AC-47D was hit by enemy fire, literally losing its starboard engine (which fell away from the plane) and developing a fire in the port engine. The AC-47D crash-landed on a mountain slope about 5 miles north of the camp. All six crewmen survived the crash but were taken under attack by NVA troops. Two men were killed and another wounded before an Air Force HH-43 arrived on scene. The HH-43 was able to rescue three of the survivors only because the fourth, 1st Lt Delbert R. Peterson, deliberately sacrificed himself in order to allow the others to be brought aboard the helicopter. A limited number of A-1s were able to work below the overcast and two C-123s were brought in for resupply drops.
The NVA renewed their attack on the night of 09/10 March. Early on the 10th an A-4 Skyhawk (BuNo 148518) from VMA-311 was lost while trying to work below the overcast. Later in the morning an A-1E from the 602nd Air Commando Squadron, tail number 52-133867 flown by Major D. W. Myers, was forced to crash-land on the abandoned A Shau runway; in a daring rescue, Major B. F. Fisher landed his A-1E while under fire, got Myers aboard, and took off again.
By the afternoon of the 10th, with half the fort in enemy hands and bad weather still a factor, it was decided to evacuate the fort by helicopter. Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 drew the job, using its 24 UH-34s beginning at about 1700. By the time the Marines were finished, they'd lost two helicopters (UH-34s 149340 and 149347) and 19 of the other 22 had taken heavy damage. In addition to the airlift, small groups of ARVN and Special Forces troops (and at least one downed Marine helicopter crew) exfiltrated through the NVA forces and were picked up over the next several days.
Nine Americans are known to have been killed at A Shau on 09/10 March 1966 - three Air Force crewmen from the AC-47D, one Marine pilot, and five Special Forces soldiers:
• 4th Air Commando Squadron
o Capt Willard M. Collins, Quincy, IL (Air Force Cross)
o SSgt Robert E. Foster, Lockport, NY
o 1stLt Delbert R. Peterson, Maple Plain, MN (Air Force Cross)
(MIA/BNR. Presumptive finding of death on 09 Deb 1978)

• Marine Attack Squadron 311
o 1stLt Augusto M. Xavier, San Jose, CA (Silver Star)

• 5th SF Group, Special Forces
o SFC Raymond Allen, Rossville, GA
o SSG Billie A. Hall, Sand Springs, OK (Dist Svc Cross)
o SGT Owen F. McCann, Utica, PA
o SP5 Phillip T. Stahl, Pompano Beach, FL (Dist Svc Cross)
o SGT James L. Taylor, Nitro, WV
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POSTED ON 1.1.2018
POSTED BY: Lucy Micik


Dear Capt Willard Collins,
Thank you for your service as a Tactical Aircraft Pilot (Various.) You are still MIA.
Today starts 2018, Happy New Year, and it is the 8th Day of Christmas. It is so important for us all to acknowledge the sacrifices of those like you who answered our nation's call. Please watch over America, it stills needs your strength, courage and faithfulness. Rest in peace with the angels.
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POSTED ON 10.31.2015

Face to a Name

I lived in Chicago in the 80`s and have had Capt. Collins bracelet sense. I would hold it reading his name now and again, unsuccessfully trying to find information on him.. So to now having the the incredible back story and wonderful face to go with his name, the strong name of Capt. Willard M Collins, I say with great respect! THANK YOU!
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POSTED ON 8.7.2015

Final Mission of CAPT Willard M. Collins

On March 9, 1966, pilot CAPT Willard M. Collins, co-pilot LT Delbert R. Peterson, navigator CAPT Jerry L. Meek, flight engineer SSGT John G. Brown, and aerial gunners SSGT James Turner Jr. and SSGT Robert E. Foster comprised the crew of a C-47 gunship, call sign "Spooky 70," that departed Da Nang Airfield on a close air support mission for the A Shau Special Forces Camp, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam. At 1300 hours, when the gunship was approximately 2 miles south of the Special Forces camp, CAPT Collins initiated a left hand turn to position the aircraft for a firing pass. At the same time the enemy opened up with anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire and hit the C-47 several times in the right engine. CAPT Collins feathered the #1 engine and notified the crew they "were going in." After they crash landed, the crew got out, surveyed the damage and collected their survival equipment and weapons. SSGT Foster was injured in the crash and LT Peterson began first aid on him. At the same time CAPT Collins began working the survival radio. CAPT Meek loaded all the M-16s and set up a perimeter defense outside the aircraft. About 10 minutes later, CAPT Meek was shot and wounded by a Viet Cong (VC) guerrilla who was closing on the downed aircraft. The pilot of an L-19 Bird Dog Forward Air Controller (FAC) aircraft spotted the aircraft and crew through the dense jungle and called in A-1 Skyraiders to provide air cover for the downed aircrew. CAPT Meek told LT Peterson they needed a sentry at the rear of the airplane because it was a blind spot. Delbert Peterson put on his survival vest and crawled around past the tail into the undergrowth with his M-16. Before the Skyraiders could make a pass, the right side of the C-47 was raked with enemy machine gun fire, killing SSGT Foster outright and mortally wounding CAPT Collins. CAPT Meek called out to LT Peterson and SSGT Brown. John Brown acknowledged he was all right, but there was no response from Delbert Peterson. At approximately 1520 hours, search and rescue helicopters arrived on site and made a circular pass over the crash site. While one descended to a ground hover approximately 25 feet away from the nose of the C-47, the other remained overhead. CAPT Meek ordered SSGT Brown to make a run for the helicopter. SSGT Turner, who had been on the inside of the aircraft, kicked the remnants of the emergency exit door out of the right side. John Brown, James Turner and Jerry Meek all made it to the rescue helicopter at the same time. As it lifted off the ground, the crew and passengers searched the area around the C-47 for Delbert Peterson, but none saw any trace of him. About 20 minutes after the three crewmen were rescued, a Special Forces ground team arrived at the crash site. They found the bodies of CAPT Collins and SSGT Foster where they had fallen near their aircraft. However, during their search, which included the area in and around where the co-pilot was last seen, they could find no sign of LT Peterson. Further, they found blood spots or blood trails leading away from the crash site. Because of the heavy enemy presence in the area, the Special Forces team was unable to bring the bodies of Willard Collins and Robert Foster out with them. Willard Collins and Robert Foster were immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered. Because there was a strong probability Delbert Peterson was captured, he was listed Missing in Action. The location of loss placed the gunship 10 kilometers north of the A Shau Valley and 2 miles south of the Special Forces Camp they were to provide air support for. [Taken from ac47-gunships.com]
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