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Vietnam War Missing In Action

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Guest Dept. of Defense - Public Affair

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of two U.S. Army officers, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

 

They are Col. Sheldon J. Burnett of Pelham, N.H., and Warrant Officer Randolph J. Ard of West Pensacola, Fla. Burnett is to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday. Ard was buried last month in Alabama.

 

On March 7, 1971, Ard flew his OH-58A “Kiowa” helicopter from South Vietnam to transport three passengers, including Burnett, to an area on the Vietnam-Laos border. As the helicopter approached a landing zone, it was hit by enemy antiaircraft fire and crashed in Savannakhet Province, Laos. Two of the passengers survived the crash and evaded capture as enemy forces attacked. When they reached friendly lines, the two reported that Burnett and Ard were still alive but badly injured.

 

After 11 days of heavy resistance, South Vietnamese ground forces reached the crash site but found no trace of the missing men or any graves.

 

Between 1989 and 1996, joint U.S.-Lao teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) conducted five separate field investigations which met with negative results. Then in 2002, U.S. specialists interviewed four former North Vietnamese soldiers, three of which had seen the bodies of the two unaccounted-for U.S. officers. The fourth soldier had drawn a sketch of the area shortly after the incident and all volunteered to assist U.S. investigators in Laos.

 

In 2003, the four Vietnamese witnesses and local Lao villagers guided the team to the crash site in Laos where they found some aircraft wreckage but no human remains. Then in Aug.-Sept. 2004, JPAC and Lao specialists excavated the crash site and two nearby graves where they found human remains, U.S. military clothing and personal effects, including Ard’s identification tag.

 

After extensive analysis of the remains and teeth recovered during the excavation, JPAC scientists identified both Ard and Burnett.

 

Of the 88,000 Americans missing in action from all conflicts, 1,836 are from the Vietnam War, with 375 of those within the country of Laos. Another 747 Americans have been accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War.

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he Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today the identification of the remains of 12 U.S. servicemen missing in action from the Vietnam War. Five of those identified are being returned to their families for burial, and the remaining seven will be buried as a group in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C.

 

The men who were individually identified are: Cpl. Gerald E. King, of Knoxville, Tenn.; Lance Cpls. Joseph F. Cook, of Foxboro, Mass.; Raymond T. Heyne, of Mason, Wis.; Donald W. Mitchell, of Princeton, Ky.; and Thomas W. Fritsch, of Cromwell, Conn., all of the U.S. Marine Corps. Additional group remains are those of: Pfcs. Thomas J. Blackman, of Racine, Wis.; Paul S. Czerwonka, of Stoughton, Mass.; Barry L. Hempel, of Garden Grove, Calif.; Robert C. Lopez, of Albuquerque, N.M.; William D. McGonigle, of Wichita, Kan.; and Lance Cpl. James R. Sargent, of Anawalt, W. Va., all of the U.S. Marine Corps. Additionally, the remains of U.S. Army Sgt. Glenn E. Miller, of Oakland, Calif. will be included in the group burial.

 

The Marines were part of an artillery platoon airlifted to provide support to the 11th Mobile Strike Force, which was under threat of attack from North Vietnamese forces near Kham Duc in South Vietnam. On May 9, 1968, the Strike Force had been directed to reconnoiter an area known as Little Ngok Tavak Hill near the Laos-Vietnam border. Their base came under attack by North Vietnamese Army troops, and after a 10-hour battle, all of the survivors were able to withdraw from the area.

 

Six investigations beginning in 1993 and a series of interviews of villagers and former Vietnamese soldiers led U.S. recovery teams in 1994, 1997 and 1998 to specific defensive positions within the large battle site. Additionally, maps provided by American survivors helped to locate some key areas on the battlefield. Three excavations by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in 1998 and 1999 yielded human remains, personal effects and other material evidence.

 

JPAC scientists and Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory specialists used mitochondrial DNA as one of the forensic tools to help identify the remains.

 

Of the 88,000 Americans missing in action from all conflicts, 1,815 are from the Vietnam War, with 1,381 of those within the country of Vietnam. Another 768 Americans have been accounted for in Southeast Asia since the end of the war. Of those, 540 are from within Vietnam.

 

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1169.

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