Robert C. Coats

Born in West Monroe, Louisiana, Robert C. Coats was raised in nearby Delhi, Louisiana. He attended Northeast Junior College in Monroe before transferring to Louisiana Tech in Ruston where he graduated in 1939. After graduation, he entered the U.S. Naval Reserve as an aviation cadet, attending flight school at Pensacola, Florida. Receiving his commission, he was retained as a flight instructor in fighter tactics. In March of 1943, he reported to VF-18 which deployed aboard USS BUNKER HILL (CV-17) flying the F4F Wildcat and later the F6F Hellcat. He saw combat throughout the area of the Southwest Pacific including the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands, and the Caroline Islands. In mid-1944, Lieutenant Coats was transferred to VF-17 aboard USS HORNET (CV-12) and saw combat over Okinawa and Japan and in the air attacks on the battleship YAMATO and against shipping in the South China Sea. During this time, he became an ace, credited with 10 kills, 6 probable kills, 5 damaged, and 6 aircraft destroyed on the ground. He was twice shot down by enemy ground fire, but never by an enemy aircraft. With war"s end, he attended and graduated from Navy Flight Test Pilot School and spent the next 20 years flying new aircraft and holding three squadron commands. He retired at the rank of Captain in 1971 with 8,000-plus flight hours and 600-plus carrier landings. Among Captain Coats' awards are the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross.