by Major Dale Cope
On 16 Sep 1952, Capt Troy Cope was flying his F-86F Sabre jet as lead with his wingman in a fighter sweep along the Yalu River, in the general area between Sinuiju and the Suiho Dam, North Korea. Sighting a flight of four MIG-15s, they gave chase when two more MIG-15s entered the action, and a maneuvering fight began. Capt Cope made a firing pass on one of the MIG-15s when it came within shooting range, and the action quickly developed into a dogfight in which both the F-86s and MIG-15s engaged in close-in maneuvering and firing passes. Capt Cope and his wingman remained in close proximity, but had to engage separately as more and more enemy aircraft appeared. Losing sight of Capt Cope, the wingman was able to chase two MIG-15s out of the fight before returning to base, but Capt Cope's aircraft was not seen again.
Fifty years after the armistice ended hostilities on the Korean peninsula, the search for Korean War Missing In Action (MIA) continues, and for the family of one Kansas Air Guard member, Major Dale Cope of the 184th MXS, the search has gained new hope. Known as "Gordy" to his family, Capt Cope was "reported MIA on 16 Sep 1952 and, in the absence of evidence of continued survival, the Air Force issued a presumptive finding of death on 31 Dec 1953." Little effort was made by the U.S. government for the next four decades to account for the approximately 8,177 U.S. MIAs from the Korean War, including the case of Capt Troy Gordon Cope. Then, in 1992, a U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POWs-MIAs was formed to investigate the Soviet Unions involvement in the Korean War. In a report released in 1993, evidence was presented about the possible transfer of U.S. Korean War prisoners to the Soviet Union. The Soviets had formed and used a special Air Force unit with the mission of capturing pilots of the U.S. F-86 fighter, and the report identified 37 U.S. airmen missing from the Korean War who the United States believed may have been captured and sent to the former Soviet Union. Capt Cope was listed among the 37.
Then, in 199S, the first hard evidence of Gordy's fate surfaced when a businessman returned from China with rubbings of American dog tags, including that of Capt Cope. The dog tags were found in a Korean War museum in the border city of Dandong, China near where Capt Cope's plane was last seen. In the report to the U.S.Embassy, it was stated that Capt Cope~survived and was met by locals who thought he was a Russian hero and sent for Russian interpreter. Upon discovering that he was not Russian, it was reported that Capt Cope was taken away live and not seen again.
Through the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), the U.S. government began pushing the Russians and Chinese for additional information, and in 2001, a major breakthrough was achieved on Capt Cope's case. While researching Soviet air combat reports in the Russian Ministry of Defense Archives, a Chinese report was discovered describing the shoot down of an F-86 on 16 Sep 19S2. The report stated the enemy aircraft crashed into a house in a village and the pilot's body was found in the wreckage.
With this new information, DPMO representatives were able to meet with representatives of the Chinese government in Beijing in March 2003 to discuss Capt Cope's case along with other POW/MIA accounting issues. In a rare instance of cooperation by the Chinese government on a case involving a Korean War MIA, the Chinese agreed to technical talks to facilitate an investigation of the crash site. The Pentagon's Central Identification Laboratory will conduct the investigation, and if the information warrants, they will travel to Dandong for excavation of the crash site and exhumation of the pilot's remains. Once the remains are exhumed, then the laboratory will be able to use state-of-the-art forensic techniques to make positive identification.
Major Dale Cope and his brother, Chris Cope, (nephews of Gordy) recently attended a DPMO briefing for families of Korean War MIAs and POWs, which was held in Washington, D.C. just days prior to the 50th anniversary of the armistice, July 27, 1953. During these briefings, Major Cope learned details about the review of Russian archives and how an excavation is conducted. Major Cope and his brother met individually with the DPMO representatives who have been instrumental in the investigation of Gordy's fate. They discussed the specifics of Capt Cope's case and found out the technical talks with the Chinese were scheduled for August 2003. These latest developments have brought new hope for Gordy's family that he may be returned home after being listed missing for 51 years. Even after five decades, Gordy is survived by his wife, three sons, two brothers, a sister, and a multitude of grandchildren, nephews, and nieces. If the family is able to bring Gordy's remains home in a flag-draped coffin, it will help bring final closure for one MIA family, and hopefully, provide in-roads with the Chinese on the investigation of other Korean War MlAs. Capt Cope's case illustrates the U.S. government's commitment and DPMO's dedication to "Keeping The Promise" to achieve the fullest possible accounting of our missing in action - from all wars.
Sabre Pilots still listed as MIA
Names and Dates of Loss Capt William D. Crone, 18 June 1951 Capt Robert H Laier, 19 June 1951
1Lt Lawrence C Layton, 2 September 1951
1Lt Carl G Barnett, Jr, 26 September 1951
Capt Charles W Pratt, 8 November 1951
1Lt Charles D Hogue, 13 december 1951
Lt Lester F Page, 6 January 1952
Lt Thiel M Reeves, 11 January 1952
1Lt Charles W Rhinehart, 29 January 1952
l Lt Thomas C Lafferty, 31 January 1952
Capt Charles R Spath, 3 February 1952
Capt Jack C Langston, 10 March 1952
1Lt James D Carey, 24 March 1952
Maj George V Wendling, 13 April 1952
Capt Albert G Tenney, 3 May 1952
Capt John F. Lane, 10 May 1952
Major Felix Asla, 1 August 1952
Maj Deltis H Fincher, 22 August 1952
Capt Troy G Cope, 16 September 1952
2Lt Jack H Turberville, 18 November 1952
1Lt Donald R Reitsma, 22 December 1952
2Lt Bill J Stauffer, 26 January 1953
1 Lt Paul J Jacobson, 12 February 1953
1Lt Richard M Cowden, 9 March 1953
1 Lt Robert F Niemann, 12 April 1953
Capt Frank E Miller, JR, 27 May 1953
1Lt John Southerland, 6 June 1953
1LT Allan K Rudolph, 19 June 1953
Capt Charles E Gunther, 19 June 1953
1Lt Jimmy L Escale, 19 June 1953
2Lt Gerald W Knott, 20 July 1953
2005 Editors Note
Capt. Troy Cope's remains were recovered and identified in 2005. He was
buried in Plano Texas May 31, 2005
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