John Harding Coyne was born 14 June 1920 in Evanston, IL to Daniel Joseph Coyne, Jr. and Mae Harding Coyne. Mr. Coyne worked at a poultry and egg distribution organization. John had an older sister, Edith, and brother, Daniel Joseph III. In 1930 the family was living on Chestnut Avenue in Willamette Village, Cook County IL. He attended school and high school in Winnetka IL, then attended Cornell University at Ithica NY.
When WWII came, John joined the Navy and became a fighter pilot. His brother Daniel also went to war. Daniel Joseph Coyne III flew 57 missions over Europe in B-17 Bombers in WWII with the 8th Air Force.
On August 21, 1944, Strafing Flight #63 took off at 13:15 from the deck of the USS Tulagi. Eight planes under flight leader Lt. Cmdr. William F. Bringle, consisted of pilots Ensign William C. McKeever, Ensign John M. Denison, Ensign Charles P. Skelly, Lt. Charles s. Longino, Ensign Lawrence W. Thompson, Lt. John H. COYNE, Ensign Thomas S. Ryan headed on their mission over Southern France.
The eight F6F-5s Hellcats led by Lt. Cmdr. Bringle were assigned to attack barges on the Rhone River. Four were found below Aries tied up at position S-9340. They were first strafed then were bombed with 1000 lb. bombs, which were near misses and a depth bomb exploded on the bow of the largest barge which was 200 feet long. The bow was shattered but did not burn.
After the attack, two planes were detached by the control ship for a special mission. The remaining six headed toward Nimes. On the way they strafed several small groups of motor trucks which were found on the roads. They turned north in the direction of Sainte-Anastasie and strafed and attacked with rockets, 100 motor trucks found in 5 groups along the road.
They went as far north as Uzes, but the weather started to close in and they turned south. Northwest of Nimes they strafed a train and left its locomotive disabled with clouds of steam escaping. In all these attacks, 50 trucks were considered certainly destroyed and 50 more damaged.
After the attack on the barges, Longino and Thompson were ordered by the control ship to investigate the area)-9179 near Grenoble, (Alpes Mountain). They got to 0-7565 but were stopped by bad weather and had to turn back to the ship. At about 14:20, B plane, nose #8, #58263 was seen to disintegrate in the air while pulling out of a rocker run on a large motor trucks convoy at S-6683 near Sainte-Anatasie. The convoy contained many troops who were shooting back with small arms and light guns. The pilot, Lt. JG Coyne was observed leaving the cockpit about 600 feet above the ground. His parachute opened only a few seconds before he reached the ground and it is probable he sustained some injury in landing. His landing point was only a few hundred yards from the enemy troops who had just been strafed by our planes. Ensign Denison in plane Nose # 12, arrived back at the ship at 15:14 H escorted by Ensign Skelly. He was found to have an unexploded 20 millimeter shell in his engine which had caused damage to two cylinders. The shell had entered the engine almost horizontally from the port side.
Evidence at the crash showed Lt. Coyne crashed in the Panissieres Woods, near the town of Sainte-Gervasy. During several days, the body of the pilot was left at the site of the crash, left there by the German sentries. The people thought that this was a German plane that had been shot down, and was not where the pilot’s body came from. After the German sentries left some days later, the body was found by a hunter on 30 Aug. 1944, who notified the police.
The investigation of the death, 10 to 12 days after the incident August 30, 1944, showed the pilot was an American, Lt. John Harding Coyne. A statement given by Georges Taillefer, Mayor of the Sainte-Gervasy community: “To my knowledge, one American plane crashed on the border between the communities of Sainte-Gervasy and Cabrieres, about the 20th of August, 1944”. Signed 20 June 1946 Sainte-Gervasy.
On July 15, 1946 Lt. John Harding Coyne was interred at Epinol American Cemetery Dinoz (Voges) Northeastern France, Plot 4, Row 27, Grave 60.
Lt. Coyne received the Purple Heart, American Air Campaign Ribbon, Air Medal, European Africa Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Bronze Star, WWII Victory Medal and the Presidential Unit Citation.
On September 14, 2002, a memorial was dedicated to Navy Lt. John Harding Coyne, at Cabrieres, France. This was attended by the pilot’s family, an American delegation, France General Jean-Paul Vinceguerra, and citizens of Cabrieres.
L-R; Lt. F.A.F. Vinceguerra, Mary Coyne McGinty, Gen Jean-Luc Vinceguerra, Mrs. Vinceguerra, Frank McGinty, Marcel Ertel, Joann Paschen, William Coyne Paschen, Jack Paschen.
General Jean-Paul Vinceguerra Address
The information for this Memorial for USN Lt. John Harding Coyne has been supplied by the researcher in France, Mr. Marcel Ertel. Thank you for making this possible. Thank you, Lt. Frank, and all our military men and women, for your sacrifice for Freedom.
"People sleep peaceably at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf"......George Orwell
"Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands.
Protect them as they protect us. Bless them
and their families for the selfless acts they
perform for us in our time of need. I ask this
in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
Marcel Ertel was a career airman in the French Air Force, specializing in Military Air Control, flying on a Boeing KC-135-F, refueling in flight, jet planes for the FAF. After he retired, his love of flying and admiration for the US pilots that died in the Liberation of South France, led to researching and locating the sites of the crashes and deaths of these pilots. His efforts have culminated in formal dedication ceremonies of memorials for many of "his pilots". He has received numerous certificates and accolades from US Air Force personnel for his achievements at recognizing fellow US servicemen, who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom in France.
You can check out his page here on the Liberation of South France. Please be patient as it has many photos.
Web Page December 30, 2002
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NOTICE: All research materials regarding VF-74 and VOF-1 Squadrons, including but not restricted to, documents, research, photos are the exclusive property of the French Military Historian and Researcher, Mr. Marcel Ertel, Les Villettes, Haute-Loire, France. The personal photos of various pilots provided by their families are the exclusive property of the pilot's families. Phots from the collection of Captain Harry Basore, USN, remain the exclusive property of Capt. Basore. Mr. Ertel, Captain Basore and the families have graciously permitted me to use the information for this Memory Album dedicated to those pilots. Thank you all.
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