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John Alan Coey

American-Rhodesian soldier and medic

Died when: 24 years 249 days (296 months)
Star Sign: Scorpio

John Alan Coey (12 November 1950 – 19 July 1975) was an American soldier who served in the Rhodesian Army as one of "the Crippled Eagles", a loosely organised group of US expatriates fighting for the unrecognised government of Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) during that country's Bush War.

A devout Christian and fervent anti-communist, he was the first American fatality of the war.He moved to Rhodesia to join its army in 1972, the day after graduating from college in his home town of Columbus, Ohio, and served until he was killed in action in 1975.

He kept a journal throughout his service that was posthumously published as A Martyr Speaks.Coey received United States Marine Corps officer training during his studies and was on track to receive a commission when he requested discharge and left for Rhodesia, asserting that the US government had been infiltrated by a "revolutionary conspiracy of internationalists, collectivists and communists" and that fighting for Rhodesia would allow him to better defend Western interests.

He joined the Rhodesian Special Air Service (SAS) and passed out with the rank of trooper in November 1972, receiving recognition as one of the army's best recruits of the year.

However, his political views led to an acrimonious fall from favour within the SAS, his expulsion from its officer training programme in October 1973 and ultimately to his leaving the unit four months later.

He redeployed to the Rhodesian Army Medical Corps, from which he was posted to the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) heliborne commando battalion in July 1974, concurrently with his promotion to corporal.

He thereafter served as an instructor and commando medic in the RLI.Though not an officer, Coey exerted some influence on tactical doctrine, making numerous suggestions to his superiors and pioneering the combat medic role in the Rhodesian Army, which caused him to be nicknamed "the Fighting Doc".

He was killed in action in Mashonaland in the country's north on 19 July 1975, shot through the head while running into the open to treat two fallen comrades.

His remains, originally buried in Que Que in central Rhodesia, were reinterred in Ohio in 1979.His journal and some of his letters home were compiled into A Martyr Speaks by his mother soon after he died, and published in 1988.


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