Full Name: JOHN FLOYD COCHRANE
Date of Birth: 4/16/1941
Date of Casualty: 10/24/1966
Home of Record: DEARBORN, MICHIGAN
Branch of Service: ARMY
Casualty Country: SOUTH VIETNAM
Casualty Province: PR & MR UNKNOWN
“Dearest Angel” is the story of the life and death of Lieutenant John F. Cochrane who was killed in Vietnam on October 24, 1966.
He was scheduled to meet his wife in Hawaii for R&R in six days, but his life was cut short by a sniper's bullet.
President Lyndon Johnson read portions of John's last letter home to wounded Vietnam Veterans who were attending a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the White House.
President Johnson said of John: “I have known many brave men and wise men, but I wish I had known Lieutenant John Cochrane. Then I would have known the best of men.”
Reading John's letters you will feel his fear as he and 18 of his troops are pinned down throughout the night not knowing if they would live or die. You will feel his frustrations as he once again sets up camp in the mud and rain. And you will sense his faith in God as he deals with the death of a fellow soldier one month earlier.
“Dearest Angel” is a book you'll want to read. Your life will be enriched and inspired as you share the deepest thoughts and feelings of one soldier taken from life too soon.
For a copy of Dearest Angel please write to:
Elaine Cochrane Murphy
P.O. Box 135
Patton, California 92369
Price is $10.00
May 25, 2008:
Back Channels: A letter home from a fallen Vietnam soldier.
‘What makes man . . . do the things he does?'
By Kevin Ferris
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer
I met Charlie Becker at the service for Michael J. Crescenz, the Philadelphia Medal of Honor recipient whose body was transferred to Arlington National Cemetery earlier this month. Becker, 65, of Trooper, helped with arrangements for the reburial.
In talking about his own time in Vietnam, in 1966 and 1967, with an Army intelligence unit, Becker mentioned his platoon leader, First Lieutenant John F. Cochrane – “one hell of a great guy.”
He showed me a letter the 25-year-old Cochrane wrote to his parents, on October 15, 1966, his third wedding anniversary. The letter was read by Lyndon Johnson at a White House tree-lighting ceremony that year and merits another look on the eve of Memorial Day:
“Tonight . . . I am awaiting an attack. Yes, that's right . . . Your only son, who you didn't raise to be stupid, is 11,000 miles from home, sitting here beneath a shaded Coleman lantern on top of a hill awaiting a visit from friend ‘Charley.'
“Here I sit, so afraid that my stomach is a solid knot, yet laughing, joking, kidding around with the 18 troops with me – and even writing a letter to the folks back home as if I haven't a care in the world. What I really want to do is load up these men . . . and get out of here. I don't belong here. Neither do these men. This isn't our war. . . . It doesn't make sense. I refuse to believe God created a human being, let him live for 20 years on this Earth just to send him to some foreign land to die. . . .
“I have offered every excuse in the book, but I know why I am here and why I couldn't be any other place. The reason is because I do believe we should be here and I do believe that . . . basic principles are enough for a man to die for. . . . We are here because we actually believe that our country is good enough to fight, and even if necessary, die for. All we ask is that some good come out of it. . . .
“Now you may think this is all written in a highly emotional state, and if fear is considered a highly emotional state, and it is, then you are right. But I have sat here this night and looked in the faces of 18 young men – the oldest is 28 – and I have talked to them about their homes and families and wives and sweethearts . . .
“I have had to sit here and direct them about what action they would take and what they would do if ‘Charley' does pay us a call, and I have had to tell them that once it starts, there can be no giving up – no relenting even if it's to the last man because of the information they have had access to . . . I could read on their faces the fear, the doubts, and the anger . . .
“As they ask the questions, I could feel the tension they were feeling as they asked me what they should do – or where the machine guns should be deployed. And I was scared – not because of death, because I have accepted the Lord and I know where I will spend Eternity – but because I also had to assume the responsibility for 18 other lives – and that takes guts – lots of them. . . .
“All precautions have been taken, and double-checked. If he comes, he will have a fight on his hands. If he doesn't come, then we will all walk around with sheepish looks on our faces telling those around us that we really weren't afraid. But it's not tomorrow, it's right now, and it's dark, and he is out there – we can hear him. . . .
“It is times like right now that we search our souls and are able to see our faults and shortcomings. . . . Here I am alone – only I can make the decision. I have to be right. If I am not, then men will die – good men with families and girlfriends and mothers and fathers. . . .
“[‘Charley'] is a . . . formidable enemy. . . . I will kill him if I get the chance because he does not agree with me. That is what war is all about. A simple disagreement, yet we, the most civilized of God's creatures, have to resort to shooting and killing to settle this simple disagreement. Reminds me of that passage from Psalms, ‘What is a man that Thou are mindful of him?' That may not be exactly correct . . . but the thought is still there . . .
“It really seems that God has turned his back on mankind when one is in a situation like this. With all of the intellect and intelligence and scientific discovery He has endowed man with, it boils down to two soldiers on opposite sides, sworn to kill each other. . . .
“I am going to take one last look around and then I am going to try to get some sleep. If all goes well, I will finish this tomorrow. Thank goodness I can call on God at a moment like this.
Much love, J”
John Cochrane and his 18 men survived the night. The next morning, as he finished the letter, he wrote, “I wonder if I will ever know what makes man work. What causes him to do the things he does?”
On October 24, Cochrane was killed by a sniper – six days before he was to join his wife, Elaine, in Hawaii for R&R. He, too, is buried in Arlington.
While in the 409th (Army Security Agency) First Lieutenant John Cochrane was the operations officer and my OIC and was killed on 24 Oct 66. I remember that day very well. The detachment commander, Lieutenant Cochrane and an acting Sergeant, who was driving, left the Long Binh staging area in search of PRD1 sites. When out of sight of the staging area, the Captain told the Sergeant to get in back and let him drive. That placed Lieutenant Cochrane in the passenger seat. Somewhere south of Xuan Loc, in the vicinity of what was to be the 11th ACR compound, a sniper fired two shots. The first went through the oil filter stopping the engine. The second shot went through the windshield, clipped Lieutenant Cochrane's helmet liner and struck him between the eyes. There are pictures showing the only visible damage to the M151 as a hole in the windshield. I guess the reason I remember it so is that the Captain chewed my ass out for not knowing that the sniper was there (hell we usually could not pin point the regiments, let alone a single VC). The Captain proceeded to the 303rd BN while we at the detachment had to contact Lieutenant Cochrane's wife who was enroute to Hawaii to meet him on R&R. It was shortly after that I put in a transfer to the 337th RR Co to vary rotation dates.
David N. McDonald
COCHRANE, JOHN FLOYD
1ST LT US ARMY
- DATE OF BIRTH: 10/24/1966
- DATE OF DEATH: 10/24/1966
- BURIED AT: SECTION 37 SITE 1176
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard