USA   F-111 Aardvark OZ

Last Updated 20 June, 2003

On 28 September 1972

Maj. William Clare "Bill" Coltman and 1LT Robert Arthur "Lefty" Brett Jr
REFNO 1929 F-111A 67-0078 (GD#123) 28SEP72
(wreckage found in Laos, Coltman recovered in 2000  N20 42.44  E104 06.28)

Arlington Service for Capt "Lefty" Brett.  The Arlington service for Capt "Lefty" Brett, (WSO of Ranger 23, piloted Col William C. Coltman) is scheduled at the Fort Myer's Chapel at 1100 on 1 Aug 2002 with burial at Arlington to follow. Capt Brett was pronounced MIA 29 September 1972. 
Info via Kimberly Coltman, daughter of Col William Coltman.

F-111A 67-0078 28 Sep 72. Maj. William Clare "Bill" Coltman and 1LT Robert Arthur "Lefty" Brett Jr. Callsign RANGER 23. Aircraft lost on the first night of F-111 operations, only hours after deploying to SEA. Target was in Route Pack 1. Major Coltman was promoted twice to the rank of Colonel whilst listed as missing before being pronounced presumed killed in action.   POW/MIA Reference # 1929-0-01 / -02.
Loss co-ordinates: 21 35 51N  104 59 21E are of target position (North Viet Nam).
Wreckage positively identified by JTF-FA team in Laos in late 1990's, and recovery of bone fragments in 2000. 
Honolulu Star newspaper article.

site marker
67-0078 being loaded
prior to final flight.
474th TFW history via Doc
Recovery site / target

Project CHECO Report

The F-111 in SEA September 1972 - January 1973
HQ PACAF/XOAD  dated 21 Feb 1974
download here 4.8 MB, 90 pages, zipped PDF

extract pages 46 - 47

Coltman / Brett REFNO 1929 F-111A 67-0078 (GD#123) 28SEP72 - RANGER 23   Ranger 23 disappeared while on a strike mission against the Yen Son Military Storage Facility located SE of Yen Bai in Route Package V.  The flight plan for Ranger 23 included a lengthy portion of TFR flight over extremely rugged karst areas.  This terrain included abrupt variations up to 4000 feet in passing from mountain peaks to valley floors.  There were several 9000 foot peeks in the vicinity of the flight path which towered over the typical 5000 to 6000 foot peaks in the region.  Approximately 4 nm short of the target on the inbound track was a hill rising about 200 feet above the surrounding terrain.  The target was adjacent to the Red River and lay in a relatively flat region, but beginning about 2 to 3 nm beyond the target along the extended inbound track the terrain rose in a series of 300 to 400 foot hills.

Enroute weather for Ranger 23 was reported as scattered clouds at 4000 feet with a second layer of scattered clouds at 12 000 feet; visibility was seven miles.  Other F-111 aircraft encountered numerous heavy thunderstorms in the area.

The last radio contact with Ranger 23 was at 2141, and the last radar contact occurred at 2145 as the aircraft approached the Laotian border.  At that time the pilot was deviating from his programmed track to avoid thunderstorms.  His last reported altitude was 15 000 feet.  U.S. ground based radar coverage at 15 000 feet extended approximately 70 nm beyond the last reflected position.  Taking the flight deviation into account, the estimated descent point would have been just north of Bartelemy Pass.
(UG800350 or N19 19 00 E103 52 00.  This is WNW of Vinh along the Laos border. -- Doug Loeffler)

On 29 September, after Ranger 23's loss had been officially announced, Radio Hanoi reported a shootdown of an F-111 in Yen Bai Province.  No elaborate narrative or photography was produced to substantiate this claim.  However, all F-111 missions on the night of 28 September were fragged against targets in Yen Bai Province.

Col William "Wild Bill" Coltman to be laid to rest
Funeral Service
11 AM, Wednesday, April 3, 2002
Fort Myer Memorial Chapel
Fort Myer, Virginia
Committal Service to follow at Arlington National Cemetery
Maj Kimberly Coltman, the daughter of Col William "Wild Bill" Coltman the pilot of Ranger 23 reported MIA 29 Sept 72, has contacted to confirm that the remains of her father have been positively identified.  The crash site in northern Laos was excavated by the Hawaiian based JTF-FA in 1998. 
Ranger 23's mission was a night bombing run against a target near the North Vietnam/Laos boarder, and was the F-111A mission in SEA since 1968.
Maj Kimberly Coltman has written that her family are currently making arrangements to escort her father's remains from CILHI in Hawaii to Arlington for military service and burial.

Maj Coltman would like to inform that anyone who knew her father and is interested in attending the service at Arlington
3rd April @ 1100 hrsMaj Coltman would also like to contact anyone who would like to hear more details of the extensive recovery efforts/report by the JTF-FA, or who just wants to share any stories or events.
email Kimberly Coltman - invitation to funeral - PDF FILE
In Loving Memory of the "Best Fighter Pilot", my father "Wild Bill"  - Kim Coltman

0517.   Vietnam War casualty laid to rest in Arlington

0517.  Vietnam War casualty laid to rest in Arlington
by Master Sgt. Dorothy Goepel
Air Force Print News
WASHINGTON -- Col. William C. Coltman Sr. was laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on April 3, nearly 30 years after he was declared missing in action during his second combat tour in Vietnam.
Family and friends gathered for a memorial service in Fort Myer Memorial Chapel, Fort Myer, Va., to celebrate the life of Coltman, who was reported missing in action Sept. 29, 1972.
"Bill Coltman touched my life," said retired Brig. Gen. Charles Bishop, who knew Coltman in the '60s. "He left us rich memories and an abiding faith in family. I'm a better person for having known him."
Two of Coltman's three sisters, Harriet Muir and Mary Crow, described their brother's sense of adventure, and a trip in 1972 to Las Vegas to visit him. Gratitude was expressed for "the Lord's timing, because a few weeks later, he was reported missing."
They remarked about his impish nature, and Crow remembered the times he would ask, "Who's the greatest brother in the world," she asked.
On Sept. 25, 1972, Coltman deployed for his second combat tour in Vietnam in support of Linebacker II. According to historical records, 48 F-111As with the 474th Tactical Fighter Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.,
arrived in Southeast Asia on Sept. 27, to help check the accelerating advance of the North Vietnamese.
On Sept. 28 of that same year, the first night of F-111 operations, Coltman and 1st Lt. Robert A. Brett Jr. disappeared while on a strike mission in North Vietnam. The last radio and radar contact occurred as the aircraft approached the Loatian border.
At that time, Coltman was said to have deviated from his programmed track to avoid thunderstorms. Radio contact was never reestablished and on Sept. 29, 1972, both men were declared missing in action at the time of
estimated fuel exhaustion and after a search and rescue operation produced no clues.
An investigative team with Joint Task Force-Full Accounting discovered wreckage in Houaphan Province, Northern Laos, on Aug. 1, 1998. The site was initially excavated in March 2000, and three more digs followed.
The final excavation occurred in September and November 2000. On Nov. 20 of that year the remains from the site were returned to U.S. soil, and in the months that followed, the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory
at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, began the identification process using the techniques of forensic anthropology and dentistry.
The laboratory positively identified Coltman's remains in December 2001 and was able to distinguish that another crew member was with him, said Ginger Couden, laboratory spokesperson.   Coltman's relatives traveled to Hawaii on March 29 to bring his remains to Arlington for burial.
Coltman's widow, Gail Coltman, was presented with the flag that had draped her husband's casket.  Coltman's brother, retired Col. (Dr.) Charles A. Coltman Jr., removed the MIA bracelet he had been wearing all these years and wrapped it around a rose before placing it on the casket.
Maj. Kimberly G. Coltman, who was only 12 when she last saw her father, rendered a salute after placing a rose on the casket, in loving memory of "the best fighter pilot in the world," as she called him.
"It was a tearful occasion, but our tears were tears of joy," Kimberly said, a nurse at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. "Words cannot express my feelings knowing that after all these years, my father has come home."

What is important to the family, she said, is that her father is now at peace.
"The ceremony at Arlington helps to bring closure to something that's been looming in our lives for so long," she said.
In this celebration of his life, she said, family and friends are happily reuniting after not having seen one another for years.

The current number of Americans who have been recovered and positively identified since 1973 from the war in Southeast Asia is 653, according to figures compiled by Joint Task Force-Full Accounting officials. Still unaccounted for are 1,932 Americans -- 1,457 in Vietnam, 409 in Laos, 58 in Cambodia and eight in China.

WASHINGTON (AFIE) -- The remains of Air Force Col. William C. Coltman are carried to his final resting place by members of the Old Guard's Caisson Platoon during a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., on April 3. Coltman, an F-111 Aardvark aircraft commander and test pilot, was buried with full military honors nearly 30 years after he was declared missing in action during his second tour in Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jim Varhegyi) (VIRIN: 020403-F-3050V-009) (For more information on this story )
WASHINGTON (AFIE) -- The remains of Air Force Col. William C. Coltman, are carried to his final resting place by members of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard during a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery on April 3. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jim Varhegyi) (VIRIN: 020403-F-3050V-017)
WASHINGTON (AFIE) -- With her mother, Gail Coltman, and brother, Bill Coltman Jr., in the background, Maj. Kim Coltman, from the 366th Medical Group at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, places a flower on the casket of her father, Col. William C. Coltman, during a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery on April 3. The major last saw her father when she was 12 years old as he departed for Southeast Asia from the flightline at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., on Sept. 25, 1972. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jim Varhegyi) (VIRIN: 020403-F-3050V-036)
WASHINGTON (AFIE) - Then-Maj. William C. Coltman, stands next to his F-111 Aardvark at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Coltman's remains were repatriated in November 2000 after being discovered in 1998 by personnel from Joint Task Force-Full Accounting at a crash site in northern Laos. (U.S. Air Force photo by John S. Swanson) (VIRIN: 020401-F-7597G-007)
Major Coltman picture next to another F-111A 66-019.(not 67-078)

Info from :

  VIETNAM PILOT: Home to Rest

Funeral gives closure to family of colonel who went missing in 1972

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