Nine U.S. Airmen missing from Vietnam War plane crash identified

By BNO News

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — The remains of nine U.S. service members, who went missing in action during the Vietnam War in 1968, have been accounted-for and returned to their families, the U.S. Department of Defense announced on Monday.

The nine servicemen were aboard a C-130A Hercules aircraft on May 22, 1968 when it went missing over the northern Salavan Province of Laos. They were on an evening flare mission and – fifteen minutes after the aircraft made a radio call – the crew of another U.S. aircraft observed a large ground fire near the last known location of the aircraft. The U.S. Department of Defense said search and rescue attempts were not initiated due to heavy anti-aircraft fire in the area.

Over 40 years, U.S. analysts developed case leads and through interviews with eyewitnesses and research in the National Archives, several locations in Laos and South Vietnam were pinpointed as potential crash sites.

Between 1989 and 2008, teams from Laos People’s Democratic Republic and the Vietnam, led by the U.S. Department of Defense, pursued leads, interviewed villagers, and conducted 10 field investigations and four excavations in Quang Tri Province of Vietnam. They recovered aircraft wreckage, human remains, crew-related equipment and personal effects.

Scientists from Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA– which matched that of the crewmembers’ families – as well as dental comparisons in the identification of the remains.

The nine men now identified are: Air Force Col. William H. Mason of Camden, Arkansas; Lt. Col. Jerry L. Chambers of Muskogee, Oklahoma; Maj. William T. McPhail of Chattanooga, Tennessee; Maj. Thomas B. Mitchell of Littleton, Colorado; Chief Master Sgt. John Q. Adam of Bethel, Kansas; Chief Master Sgt. Calvin C. Glover of Steubenville, Ohio; Chief Master Sgt. Thomas E. Knebel of Midway, Arkansas; Chief Master Sgt. Melvin D. Rash of Yorktown, Virginia; and Master Sgt. Gary Pate of Brooks, Georgia.

Their remains were returned to their families and were buried today as a group in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

Since late 1973, the remains of 927 Americans killed in the Vietnam War have been accounted-for and returned to their families. With the accounting of these airmen, 1,719 service members still remain missing from the conflict.

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