Elton Lawrence Perrine
Colonel, United States Air Force
Name: ELTON LAWRENCE PERRINE
Date of Birth: 1/6/1935
Date of Casualty: 5/22/1967
Home of Record: PITTSFORD
Branch of Service: AIR FORCE
Casualty Country: NORTH VIETNAM
Air Force Pilot Missing From Vietnam War Identified
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Air Force Colonel Elton L. Perrine of Pittsford, New York, was buried last week at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
On May 22, 1967, Perrine and Captain Kenneth F. Backus completed a nighttime strike against the Cao Nung Railroad Yard near the town of Kep in North Vietnam. Seconds after the bomb run, a nearby aircrew reported seeing an isolated explosion approximately three miles east of the target, thought to be Perrine's F-4C Phantom aircraft crashing. 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 28 years. Through interviews with eyewitnesses and research in the National Archives, four locations in Lang Son Province were pinpointed as potential crash sites, separated by as many as 10 miles.
Between 1999 and 2008, U.S.-Socialist Republic of Vietnam teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, further analyzed leads, interviewed villagers, conducted two surveys and four excavations. The teams recovered small pieces of aircraft wreckage, human remains, personal effects and life-support equipment from the four locations.
Among other forensic identification tools and
circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA
Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA – which matched that
of Perrine's mother – in the identification of his remains. No remains
connected to Backus were recovered at the locations.
About 1,720 military personnel are still missing in action in Vietnam 35 years after the United States left the country. But the list is getting shorter.
On Monday, a former MIA from Pittsford was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
Air Force Colonel Elton Lawrence Perrine's family, friends and schoolmates knew him as Larry. Ninety of them came from up and down the East Coast for his funeral service at an interfaith chapel at Fort Myer followed by a burial with full military honors.
"You all probably have more memories of my dad than I do," Mary Malamatos said during the eulogy at the Old Post Chapel, an intimate space with a dozen rows of pews on each side and a white interior softened by elaborate stained glass windows showing scenes from the New Testament.
Malamatos described her mother, Joyce Perrine,
as courageous for "raising a little girl all by herself." She said it wasn't
until she was married and had children of her own that she missed growing
up without a dad.
Air Force Chaplain Captain Anthony Wade noted
that on Memorial Day next Monday, the nation will honor its war dead who,
in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, gave their "last full measure,"
just as Perrine did.
Perrine is the fifth of 12 Vietnam War MIAs
from the Monroe County area whose remains have been recovered, according
to Joseph Peck, who chairs the POW/MIA unit of the local Vietnam Veterans
of America chapter.
Gary Jones, who chairs the MIA/POW committee
for the national Vietnam Veterans of America, said the Vietnamese government
also is receiving help from the U.S. in identifying 300,000 of their citizens
The site where Perrine's Phantom jet crashed in Nam Dinh was found in July 2007. His remains were identified through DNA analysis on December 7 of last year.
Monday's service featured a horse-drawn caisson and a flyover by an Air Force C-17 cargo plane.
Family and friends boarded two Air Force buses for the trip from the chapel to the gravesite.
One family member — Perrine's mother, Sarah Perrine of Branchport, now in her 90s — followed behind the caisson in a wheelchair guided by her grandson, Lee Levesque.
As the coffin arrived at its final destination,
a black and white POW/MIA flag inscribed with the motto "You Are Not Forgotten"
flapped in a brisk breeze a few feet away.
PERRINE, ELTON LAWRENCE
Remains Identified 01/2010
Name: Elton Lawrence Perrine
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 06 January 1935
Home City of Record: Pittsford, New York
Date of Loss: 22 May 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 213300N 1063000E (XJ553835)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Kenneth F. Backus (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 June 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 2010.
The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2), and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.
First Lieutenant Kenneth F. Backus and Captain Elton L. Perrine were F4 pilots assigned a combat mission over North Vietnam on May 22, 1967. At a point near the city of Nam Dinh, their F4C aircraft was struck by enemy fire and crashed.
Because of the probability that both men safely ejected from the crippled aircraft, they were both classified Missing in Action.
Who was piloting and who was co-pilot remained a myystery until 2005. Defense Department records indicate that both Backus and Perrine were pilots. Usually, one is coded as the rearseater and the other is coded as the pilot. During a conversation in Washington DC in May 2005, former POW Dave Gray stated Ken Backus was the backseater on this flight.
591 American Prisoners of War were released
in Operation Homecoming in the spring of 1973, but Backus and Perrine were
not. Thousands of reports have been received by the U.S. Government that
indicate hundreds of Americans are
During the period they were maintained missing, Elton L. Perrine was promoted to the rank of Colonel and Kenneth F. Backus was promoted to the rank of Captain.
PERRINE, ELTON L
Posted: 25 May 2010 Updated: 7 June 2010