Col. William D. Coleman

Colonel Coleman

Colonel William Downing Coleman passed away in Asheville, North Carolina on May 19, 2011 and was buried at Arlington on September 30. He was a native of Fairfield, Alabama. Colonel Coleman entered the Air Force in 1948 and became a bomber pilot. He was reassigned from Strategic Air Command to Pacific Air Forces in 1968 and joined the 463rd Tactical Airlift Wing at Clark. In November, 1968 he took command of the 29th Tactical Airlift Squadron. On April 26, 1968 he was aircraft commander of one of twelve C-130 crews assigned to drop supplies to troopers of the 1st Air Cavalry Division who had assaulted into the A Shau Valley the previous day. The weather in the valley was dismal, with ceilings and visibilities so bad that USAF F-4 crews that were supposed to provide escort refused to fly. The C-130s conducted their operations by beginning a descent into solid cloud from a point established by a TACAN fix and continuing their approach on instruments until they broke out under the 500 foot overcast. The drops were controlled by a combat control team that included TCTAA member Col. Don Strobaugh, who was then a major. All twelve airplanes dropped successfully in the morning and returned to Bien Hoa, Da Nang and Cam Ranh Bay to reload for a second drop. (The B-models from the 463rd loaded at Bien Hoa while the A and E-models from the 374th and 314th wings - including some TAC TDY crews - loaded originally at Cam Ranh. Some crews were sent to Da Nang to load for their second drop.) Col. Coleman and his crew, which included TCTAA members Al Clime and Tom Stalvey, were on their second drop of the day when their airplane encountered heavy ground fire. Their airplane suffered heavy battle damage, including hits in the wing fuel tanks, as it was hit by more than 150 rounds. Later that afternoon another 463rd crew was shot down and crashed when the pilot, Maj. Lilburn Stowe, pulled up when he realized the field where he was attempting to make an emergency landing was occupied by Army troops who were in the process of recovering airdrop bundles and struck a line of trees.

In early 1969 Lt. Col. Coleman was selected for promotion to full colonel. He remained in command of the 29th TAS until June, then moved to 463rd Wing Headquarters where he became Deputy Commander for Operations. He returned to SAC upon completion of his assignment at Clark and retired at Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1973. Upon retirement, he moved to the Charleston, SC area and lived on Seabrook Island, where he was a successful building contractor and developer. He later moved to the Asheville area, where he passed away.

Col. Coleman on Find-A-Grave

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Posted 1/12/2012