Russell Dean Martin
Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force
It took the U.S. government nearly 10 years to analyze and identify remains found in Laos of six servicemen whose aircraft was shot down in 1966 during the Vietnam War.
Tuesday, government officials announced that the remains of Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Russell Martin of Bloomfield were among those discovered in 1995 near the crash site. Martin's remains and those of five others will be buried as a group Friday at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
The plane in which Martin was traveling went down in southern Laos in 1966, the day after his 29th birthday, records show.
For 38 years, no one knew what became of the Bloomfield man. Relatives finally placed a memorial stone in the cemetery earlier this week to honor him.
Tuesday, U.S. Department of Defense officials announced that Martin's remains and those of five others missing in action had been found in the mid-1990s and have now been identified.
"They recovered hundreds of bone fragments, which were tested and re-tested, and used dental records," said Larry Greer , spokesman for the Pentagon's POW/MIA office. "The in-lab process, because there were so many people to identify, took a really long time."
Iowans and others fought for years after the Vietnam War to get answers about what had happened to their missing sons, brothers and husbands. More than 88,000 Americans are missing in action from all conflicts, 1,849 of whom were lost in the Vietnam War.
Both of Martin's parents have since died, never knowing their son's fate.
According to the statement issued by the government, Martin's crew was "flying a nighttime armed reconnaissance mission over southern Laos" on June 23, 1966.
The statement continued: "At about 9:25 p.m., the aircraft radioed, 'We have a hot fire,' and another radio transmission was heard to order 'Bail out.' Witnesses reported the aircraft was on fire, then crashed into a heavily wooded area 30 miles northeast of Tchepone, in Khannouan Province, Laos. No parachutes from the crew were observed and no emergency beepers were heard. An aerial search of the site found no evidence of survivors."
U.S. and Lao specialists visited the crash site in 1994 where they found wreckage and some of the crew's personal items, Greer said. In 1995, a team excavated the site and began trying to identify the remains. The official next of kin were contacted in April 2003, Greer said.
One of Martin's sisters, who lives in Bloomfield, Iowa, said she was unaware of the announcement. She declined to be quoted. Other relatives of Martin were unable to be located.
Other servicemen's remains found include those of Air Force Colonel Theodore E. Kryszak of Buffalo, New York; Air Force Colonel Harding E. Smith of Los Gatos, California; Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Luther L. Rose of Howe, Texas; Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Ervin Warren of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Harold E. Mullins of Denver, Colorado.
Posted: 26 June 2004
Photo Courtesy of Roxsanne Wells-Layton, June 2006