Nine U.S. Airmen missing from Vietnam War plane crash identified and returned home from Laos

Airmen missing from Vietnam War identified

6/11/2010 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) – Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office officials announced June 11 that the remains of nine servicemembers, missing in action from the Vietnam War have been accounted for and returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Col. William H. Mason, Camden, Ark.; Lt. Col. Jerry L. Chambers, Muskogee, Okla.; Maj. William T. McPhail, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Maj. Thomas B. Mitchell, Littleton, Colo.; Chief Master Sgt. John Q. Adam, Bethel, Kan.; Chief Master Sgt. Calvin C. Glover, Steubenville, Ohio; Chief Master Sgt. Thomas E. Knebel, Midway, Ark.; Chief Master Sgt. Melvin D. Rash, Yorktown, Va.; and Master Sgt. Gary Pate, Brooks, Ga., were buried as a group June 11 in Arlington National Cemetery. The individually identified remains of each Airman were previously returned to their families for burial.

On May 22, 1968, these men were aboard a C-130A Hercules on an evening flare mission over northern Salavan province, Laos. 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 Colonel Mason’s aircraft. Search and rescue attempts were not initiated due to heavy anti-aircraft fire in the area.

Analysts from DPMO developed case leads with information spanning more than 40 years. Through interviews with eyewitnesses and research in the National Archives, several locations in Laos and Vietnam were pinpointed as potential crash sites.

Between 1989 and 2008, teams from Laos and the Vietnam, led by the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command, pursued leads, interviewed villagers and conducted 10 field investigations and four excavations in Quang Tri province, Vietnam. They recovered aircraft wreckage, human remains, crew-related equipment and personal effects.

Scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA, which matched that of the crew members’ families, as well as dental comparisons in the identification of the remains.

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.

For additional information on the DOD’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1169.

Defense Prisoner of War * Missing Personnel Office – Vietnam War

*******************************************************************
By Lauren King
The Virginian-Pilot
© June 10, 2010

Nine U.S. servicemen, including one from Yorktown, who were missing in action from the Vietnam War were buried as a group today in Arlington National Cemetery.

On May 22, 1968, these nine were aboard a C-130 A Hercules on an evening flare mission over the northern Salavan Province, Laos. Fifteen minutes after the aircraft made a radio call, the crew of another U.S. aircraft saw a large ground fire near the last known location of the aircraft. Search and rescue attempts were not initiated due to heavy antiaircraft fire in the area, a news release from the Department of Defense said.

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 Vietnam, pursued leads, interviewed villagers and conducted 10 field investigations and four excavations in Vietnam with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting command. They recovered aircraft wreckage, human remains, crew-related equipment and personal effects.

The remains were identified by DNA and dental comparisons.

The remains of Air Force Col. William H. Mason, Camden, Ark.; Lt. Col. Jerry L. Chambers, Muskogee, Okla.; Maj. William T. McPhail, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Maj. Thomas B. Mitchell, Littleton, Colo.; Chief Master Sgt. John Q. Adam, Bethel, Kan.; Chief Master Sgt. Calvin C. Glover, Steubenville, Ohio; Chief Master Sgt. Thomas E. Knebel, Midway, Ark.; Chief Master Sgt. Melvin D. Rash, Yorktown, Va.; and Master Sgt. Gary Pate, Brooks, Ga., were previously returned to their families for burial 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. Including these nine airmen, 1, 719 service members still remain missing.

******************************************************

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

Cached:  http://wireupdate.com/local/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.

Copyright 2010 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved.

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9 Responses to “Nine U.S. Airmen missing from Vietnam War plane crash identified and returned home from Laos”

  1. Around 1970 I purchased a MIA/POW Vietnam Peace bracelet. It had the name of Sgt. Thomas Knebel 5-22-68 on it. As the years went by I would occasionaly see it in my jewelery box. About 10 years ago I wondered if he or his remains were ever found. I looked up his information and called his Mother. We spoke for a long time and I also spoke to one of his sisters. they were lovely people. I was both happy and sad to see that his remains were found last year. I hope his family gets closure from this although it will never substitute for the loss of a son and brother.

  2. I was assigned to another crew at the same time and briefly knew the three loadmasters, Pate, Rash and
    Adam from that crew. I recently got connected to the WEB and on a whim, looked up Gary Pate and was
    amazed to see the article. I am glad to see them repatriated and am glad they are home. I salute them.
    Garry Arndt US Air Force (Ret)

  3. Around 1969-70, I was at UCLA and picked out Capt Thomas Mitchell MIA 5-22-68 in a box of Vietnam Peace bracelets…I wore it for over two years everyday. I’ve had it among my jewelry all these years and this morning googled his name. Maj Thomas Mitchell of Littleton, CO, came up with the same date. He has to be the same man. I am so happy to have found out after all these years what happened to him. He was truly an American hero.

  4. In 1986/87 I was a SSgt in the Air Force. I was from Georgia and I requested a MIA bracelet of a SSgt from GA who was still missing. I received one in the name of S/SSGT Gary Pate who was lost in LAOS on 5/22/68. He was from Brooks, GA. I have worn this bracelet every day since it arrived. In December 2010, I was invited to go to Arlington National Cemetary for the Wreaths Across America event. I was chosen to lay a wreath at President Kennedy’s gravesite. What an honor. After the event was over, I went over to the Vietnam Wall and looked up SSgt Gary Pate. I found that he had been posthumesly promoted to SMSGT. I found his name on the wall and took pictures of his name and the bracelet together. Upon my arrival back to GA, I looked him up on the computer and was astounded to find out he had been identified with his crew in June of 2010 and buried in Arlington. I thought about this event for several days and finally called his hometown. I talked to the Mayor of Brooks and although he did not know the family personally he knew of them. He contacted a lady who knew the family and when he called me back, he had already contacted Gary’s mother and told her of my story. I was in Tococa GA Christmas Eve and I got a call from Gary’s Pate mother. We spoke about half hour and we are waiting till we get the chance to meet. I am very honored to carry the memory of Gary in my heart everyday.

  5. I was a Navigator in the other C-130A airborne that night in Laos. I remember radioing their call sign for hours that night, hoping they would answer. The reports were, as I remember, that a flash was seen in the area of Tchepone which is just inside the border of Laos from Viet Nam. Unfortunately we never heard from them after the flash was seen in the sky.

    Tchepone was a major intersection for the road coming out of the Khe Sanh area, I believe it is Hwy 9, and the Ho chi minh Trail which roughly ran north and south along the Viet Nam/Laos border at that point. Intelligence reports suggested the area was heavily defended. Possibly as many as 20 anti-aircraft guns might have been protecting the crossroads. I had felt for years that they may have flown too close to Tchepone and been hit by anti-aircraft fire.

    I was also part of the crew that went out the next day looking for them. We never did see any sign of their aircraft.

    The aircraft Commander and Co-Pilot I flew with that night passed away in recent years. I don’t know where the second Navigator is, nor have I had contact with our Flight Engineer, Loadmaster, or the two Flare Kickers assigned to us since 1969.

    I am glad their remains have been returned to the United States. They deserve to be buried on U.S. soil.

  6. Hello I THINK I MIGHT HAVE FOUND A SIGHT TO HELP ME I”M 49 YEARS OF AGE I OWN A BRACELET THAT I PURCHASED WHEN I WAS A YOUNG BOY AND KEPT THIS ON MY WRIST FOR YEARS WRITTING TO THE FAMILY NO ONE EVER ANSWERED ME AND TRIED MANY UNSUCESSFUL TIMES TO LOOK UP OR CONTACT THE FAMILY AGAIN RECENTLY I REMOVED IT FROM THE CASE IT WAS IN SITTTING ON TOP OF MY FAMILY BIBLE TO LOOK UP SGT. THOMAS KNEBEL NAME AND FOUND THIS SITE STATING THAT HE WAS FOUND AND RETURNED HOME TO AMERICAN SOIL I REMEMBER PRAYING FOR HIM EVERY NIGHT BEFORE GOING TO SLEEP WHEN I WAS A YOUNG BOY, MY MOM AND DAD WOULD SAY” PRAY FOR THIS YOUNG MAN TO RETURN HOME SAFELY TO HIS PARENTS” AND IF GOD WANTED HIM PRAY THAT HE DIDN’T SUFFER , WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE PUT ME IN CONTACT WITH HIS FAMILY I WOULD LOVE TO GIVE THIS BRACELET TO THEM FOR CLOSURE THANK YOU MICHAEL P.

    • Michael I also have his bracelet since 1969-I have done some research on his family and him also-I am 61 yrs old female (that was back in my era!) so dont give up -I havent been able to contact them either please keep in touch with me JOBIRD1@AOL.COM OK? Seems like our Viet Nam Vets have been forgotten !

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