.Remains of a Naval Air Crew Coming Home After 35 Years

May 28, 2003

WASHINGTON, May 27 — Human remains recovered from Laos over the course of several years have been positively identified as those of the nine-member crew of a Navy plane that crashed during the Vietnam War, the Defense Department said today.

Some of the many pieces of remains will be buried together in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery next month. But individual remains of each crew member have also been recovered, officials said, and will be sent to the families for burial.

More than 1,900 Americans are missing in action from the Vietnam War, and Larry Greer, a spokesman for the Pentagon's office of prisoners of war and missing in action, said an Army laboratory in Hawaii regularly identified remains of missing military personnel.

"The significant aspect of this case," Mr. Greer said, "is the number of years of the investigation and the difficulty of the excavation." The crash site was scattered on two ledges of Phou Louang Mountain in Khammouan Province of Laos. "Some crew members of the recovery team had to be dropped in by helicopter," Mr. Greer said.

The Navy identified the dead today as Cmdr. Delbert A. Olson of Casselton, N.D.; Lt. j.g. Denis L. Anderson of Hope, Kan.; Lt. j.g. Arthur C. Buck of Sandusky, Ohio; Lt. j.g. Philip P. Stevens of Twin Lake, Mich.; Petty Officer Second Class Richard M. Mancini of Amsterdam, N.Y.; Petty Officer Second Class Michael L. Roberts of Purvis, Miss.; Petty Officer Second Class Donald N. Thoresen and Petty Officer Second Class Kenneth H. Widon, both of Detroit; and Petty Officer Third Class Gale R. Siow of Huntington Park, Calif.

The crewmen, in an OP-2E Neptune, flew out of Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base on Jan. 11, 1968, on a mission to drop sensors that would detect enemy movements in Laos. They reported dense cloud cover before losing radio contact.

Two weeks later, an Air Force crew photographed what appeared to be the downed Neptune, officials said, but enemy activity in the area prevented a recovery mission.

Beginning in 1993, the Defense Department organized and deployed six investigative teams to search the area where the plane had gone down. Investigators interviewed villagers and gathered aircraft debris. In 1996, a team found identification cards for several crew members, and the first of the human remains.

Go to: Vietnam Medal of Honor Citations


© 2003 by Neil Mishalov