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With jets from his old squadron streaking through the clouds overhead
in a "missing man" formation, Air Force Capt. Troy "Gordie" Cope was finally
laid to rest Tuesday, more than 50 years after his jet crashed during a
dogfight in the Korean War.

 

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AP Alert - Arkansas
June 1, 2005

Arkansas pilot missing since Korean War buried in Texas
By JAMIE STENGLE

DALLAS: With jets from his old squadron streaking through the clouds overhead in a "missing man" formation, Air Force Capt. Troy "Gordie" Cope was finally laid to rest Tuesday, more than 50 years after his jet crashed during a dogfight in the Korean War.

"He is certainly gone, but he is not forgotten," said U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, who joined family, friends, veterans and representatives of the city's Korean population for Cope's burial at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.

For decades after his jet was shot down, Cope's fate was a mystery. But by the late 1990s, clues emerged that led to the excavation of his crash site in Chinese territory and the recovery of his remains.

In February, the Pentagon announced it had identified the remains of Cope, whose case put a spotlight on a Russian role in the 1950-53 Korean War that was kept quiet for decades.

Cope was flying what was then the Air Force's best fighter, the F-86 Sabre, on Sept. 16, 1952, when he encountered MiG-15 fighters - purportedly North Korean but flown by Russians - over the Yalu River that separates North Korea from China.

"I'm so glad he's back, I really am," said Korean War veteran Ray Duncan, 71, of Richardson. Duncan served at the same base in Korea as Cope. Even though he didn't specifically remember Cope, he wanted to come to the ceremony.  "The more I thought about it, it really started tugging on my heart," Duncan said.

Before the burial, about 90 people attended a memorial service where Cope's flag-draped coffin was flanked by two pictures of a young Cope in uniform.  "It overwhelmed me to see what has been done here today," said Carl Cope, his 83-year-old brother.

After his plane went missing, Cope's family was only told that he was missing in action, said Cope's nephew, Chris G. Cope, 50, of Plano "Everybody was left in the dark," Chris Cope said. "There was always hope.

He was one of four brothers - all in the Air Force. They took it real hard. "The worst part of an MIA case is the not knowing."

Cope joined the Air Force out of high school, flying during World War II in the Aleutian Islands. He then attended the University of Arkansas and became a physical education teacher. But, as a member of the reserves, he was called up and sent to the Korean War, Chris Cope said.

In 1995, a U.S. businessman spotted Cope's name on a dog tag on display in a military museum in the Yalu River city of Dandong, China.

During a search by Pentagon analysts of Russia's Podolsk military archives in 1999, documents describing Cope's shootdown were discovered. They included statements and drawings by Russian pilots who had flown the MiG-15s for the North Koreans.

The documents contained detailed reports on a search of the crash site by Russian and Chinese officials, giving the Pentagon enough detail to ask the Chinese government for permission to send a team of U.S. specialists to investigate. U.S. officials found aircraft debris and human remains there in May 2004.

Danz Blasser of the Defense Prisoners of War/Missing Personnel Office said he'd been working on Cope's case since the early 1990s.

"In a sense, it's closure for me too," said Blasser, who spoke at the memorial about the search for Cope.  Cope, who was 28 when he was shot down, left behind a wife and three young sons.

His oldest, 57-year-old Johnny E. Cope of Sevierville, Tenn., said he grew up with pride in his father, but didn't remember or know much about him. "We were so young we didn't know what was going on," he said.

Deciding that they would never know what had happened to their "farmboy" from Norfork, Ark., family members held a memorial service there in 1988, Chris Cope said.

After that service, Johnny Cope said he'd pretty much put his father's death behind him. "For me - that was it. It was over. We had the flag and that was it."

But Tuesday's service provided something the earlier one did not: a homecoming. The Dallas area was picked for burial because it's near the home of one of Cope's brothers.

"The service we'd had was without him," Johnny Cope said. "This time we'll have him. He's home where he belongs."

 

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