Bob Coats was born on January 2, 1918, in West Monroe, Louisiana. He graduated from Louisiana Polytechnic Institute with a Bachelor's Degree in Commerce in 1939, and entered Elimination Basic Flight Training for Naval Aviation Cadet Training at NRAB Opalocka, Florida, in January 1940. He completed Elimination Training in July 1940, and began Aviation Cadet Training in the U.S. Navy on July 4, 1940, earning his commission as an Ensign and designation as a Naval Aviator on May 22, 1941. Ens Coats next completed Primary Instructor School at NAS Pensacola, Florida, in August 1941, and then served as an instructor pilot at NAS Corpus Christi and NAS Kingsville, Texas, from August 1941 to July 1943. His next assignment was with VF-18 at NAS Alameda and NAS North Island, California, from August to October 1943, and then deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) from October 1943 to March 1944, during which time he was credited with the destruction of 3 enemy aircraft in aerial combat while flying F6F-3 Wildcats. Lt Coats then served as an F6F-5 pilot and Operations Officer with VF-17 at NAS Alameda from March to December 1944, and then deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) from December 1944 to August 1945. During this time he was credited with the destruction of an additional 6.333 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, plus 3 probables, for a total of 9.333 and 3 probables during World War II. LCDR Coats served at NAS Alameda from August to September 1945, followed by service as Officer in Charge of the Aircraft Acceptance and Transfer Unit at NAS Corpus Christi from September 1945 to June 1946. His next assignment was to the first class of the U.S. Navy Test Pilot Training School at NATC Patuxent River, Maryland, followed by service as Acting Assistant Director of Armament and a Project Coordinator from June 1946 to July 1948. He completed F4U-5 Corsair training with VF-22 at NAS Norfolk, Virginia in August 1948, and then served as Commanding Officer of VF-43, flying the F4U-4, at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, and aboard the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) from September 1948 to May 1949. During this time, he was badly injured when he was forced to ditch his aircraft near the Azores Islands, and was hospitalized at the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, from May to December 1949. His next assignment was on the staff of the Commander Fleet Air at NAS Jacksonville from January 1949 to June 1950, followed by service as Commanding Officer of VF-14 at NAS Jacksonville and deployed aboard the aircraft carriers USS Wright (CVL-49), USS Saipan (CVL-48), USS Cabot (CVL-28), USS Siboney (CVE-112), USS Kula Gulf (CVE-108), and USS Oriskany (CV-34), from June 1950 to December 1951. CDR Coats attended Navy General Line School at Monterey, California, from January to December 1952, and then served on the staff of the Commander Operational Development Force, Atlantic Fleet, at NAS Norfolk, and as Monitor of VX-3 at NAS Atlantic City, New Jersey, from February 1953 to April 1955. His next assignment was with the Bureau of Aeronautics at the Pentagon, where he served in the Armament Division from May 1955 to August 1957, followed by service as Operations Officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lake Champlain (CVA-39) from September 1957 to October 1958. He then served as an AD-5N/Q Skyraider pilot and Executive Officer with VAAW-33 at NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island, from October 1958 to September 1959, and then as Commanding Officer of VAAW-33 from September 1959 to August 1960. Capt Coats attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C., from August 1960 to June 1961, and then served as Head of the Air Warfare Branch in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Development in the Pentagon from June 1961 to July 1964. His next assignment was as Commanding Officer of NAS Trinidad in the West Indies from July 1964 to June 1967, followed by service as Director of Training on the staff of the Chief of Naval Air Training at NAS Pensacola from July 1967 to July 1970. His final assignment was as Branch Head for the Southeast Asia Region in the Plans and Programs Division of U.S. Strike Command at McDill AFB, Florida, from July 1970 until he was hospitalized at the Naval Hospital at NAS Jacksonville in November 1970. Capt Coats retired from the Navy on February 1, 1971. During his Navy career, he amassed 6,111 flying hours, 131 combat missions, and 373 carrier landings. Bob Coats died on July 7, 2011, and was buried at the Delhi Masonic Cemetery in Delhi, Louisiana.
His Navy Cross Citation reads:
For distinguishing himself by extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy during a fighter plane sweep over southern Kyushu, Japan on 18 March 1945. Flying as leader of a division of carrier based fighters, he personally destroyed five enemy planes during the flight. He shot down one enemy plane in flames as it pursued a fellow pilot. Shortly thereafter five more enemy fighters were observed, flying in echelon formation. He closed to the rear of this flight and, with three short bursts, dropping his left wing and turning slightly to the left each time, destroyed three of the planes, one exploding in the air and the others flaming at the wing roots and crashing. Later during the same flight he sighted two enemy fighters pursuing one of our planes. He fired on one of the planes whose pilot bailed out when part of a wing flew off. His skill and courage were at all times in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.