Warren Robert Orr, Jr.
Captain, United States Army
Name: WARREN ROBERT ORR JR
Date of Birth: 3/20/1943
Date of Casualty: 5/12/1968
Date of Death: 5/12/1968
Home of Record: KEWANEE, ILLINOIS
Branch of Service: ARMY
Casualty Country: SOUTH VIETNAM
Casualty Province: QUANG TIN
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 1180-07
Servicemen Missing From Vietnam War Are Identified
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of two U.S. servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
They are Captain Warren R. Orr Jr., U.S. Army, of Kewanee, Illinois; and Airman 1st Class George W. Long, U.S. Air Force, of Medicine Lodge, Kansas. Long was buried September 30 in Medicine and Orr’s burial is being set by his family.
On May 12, 1968, these men were part of a crew on a C-130 Hercules evacuating Vietnamese citizens from the Kham Duc Special Forces Camp near Da Nang, South Vietnam. While taking off, the crew reported taking heavy enemy ground fire. A forward air controller flying in the area reported seeing the plane explode in mid-air soon after leaving the runway.
In 1985 and 1991, U.S. officials received remains and identification tags from sources claiming they belonged to men in this crew. Scientific analysis revealed they were not American remains, but it was believed the Vietnamese sources knew where the crash site was located.
In 1993, a joint/U.S.-Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), traveled to Kham Duc and interviewed four local citizens concerning the incident. They led the team to the crash site, and turned over remains and identification tags they had recovered in 1983 while looking for scrap metal. During this visit, the team recovered human remains and aircraft wreckage at the site.
In 1994, another joint team excavated the crash site and recovered remains, pieces of life-support equipment, crew-related gear and personal effects.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA and dental comparisons in the identification of the remains.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s
mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo
or call (703) 699-1169.
KEWANEE - Vietnamese bone traders, an Australian
tipster, DNA testing and nearly 40 years of waiting have led to the identification
of a missing serviceman who will soon get a hero's burial at Arlington
The U.S. Department of Defense issued a statement Tuesday saying the remains of Orr and a serviceman from Kansas have been identified.
But the path that led to Orr's identification has been a long and winding one, filled with false hope and false starts.
The Department of Defense said Orr, who was a Green Beret captain, was part of a crew evacuating Vietnamese citizens from the Kham Duc Special Forces Camp near Da Nang. As the plane was taking off, it was pelted with gunfire from the ground and exploded in mid-air after leaving the runway, killing the 25-year-old Orr.
In 1985 and 1991, U.S. officials received remains and ID tags from sources who claimed they belonged to crew members on the plane. However, scientific analysis showed they were not American remains.
The search for the remains continued in 1993 and 1994 when a joint team of U.S. and Vietnamese officials, along with POW/MIA Accounting Command, traveled to Kham Duc and interviewed four local citizens about the crash.
Orr said an Australian knew of a man in Vietnam who scavenged the bones of military personnel in order to sell them to the U.S. government for identification.
"All the villagers around there had scavenged the crash site and took his bones," Orr said.
Bones and ID tags were turned over by villagers to the government-led teams during the 1993 search. The villagers said they had been found while looking for scrap metal in 1983, according to the Department of Defense.
DNA testing was done on what the government believed to be Orr's bones by comparing DNA from a cousin, his father said.
Tracking down a female relative for the mitochondrial DNA test was itself a challenge, but after getting confirmation, officials from the Pentagon visited Orr at his California home six weeks ago to tell him the news.
"I didn't believe it. I thought they were trying to clear up their own (unsolved) cases," he said. But after he reviewed the evidence that was shown to him, he knew the remains were his son's.
"Through DNA testing, they proved it was Warren Jr.," he said.
Orr said his son's plane was carrying about 150 Vietnamese women and children when it crashed on Mother's Day in 1968.
"That was very hard on his mother," Orr said. "She didn't last too long after that, and she just died."
Kewanee resident Max Orr, who is the younger Orr's uncle and brother to Orr senior, remembers his nephew as a bright person with a winning personality.
"He was a very, very special young man," he said. "He was very generous and outgoing."
Warren Orr Jr. will be laid to rest in the next month in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, with full military rites and honors.
"He said if anything happened to him, he wanted to be buried there," Orr said.
Knowing that the near 40-year journey is almost over brings some comfort to Warren Orr senior.
"It took a long time and a lot of effort,"
Orr said. "When he's finally laid to rest, I'm going to be very relieved."
2 October 2007:
The pride is evident in Kewanee native Warren Orr Sr.'s voice when he speaks of his oldest son, U.S. Army Captain Warren R. Orr Jr.
"You couldn't beat him," Mr. Orr said Tuesday evening. "There was nobody out there like him."
Captain Orr, who was in the Army's 5th Special Forces Group, disappeared when his plane was shot down in Vietnam in May 1968.
The U.S. Department of Defense formally announced Tuesday afternoon that it had positively identified his remains, which will soon be returned to his family for burial with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Mr. Orr got the call back in September that his son's remains had been positively identified, and was flooded with mixed emotions.
"I was very skeptical at first, because it was such a long time ago," said Mr. Orr, who now lives in Santa Ana, California. "You really don't know what to believe after so many years. But I'm satisfied now they do have him. ... I was pretty elated the Pentagon called me and said they had a match and had proof."
Born in West Frankfort, Illinois, Captain Orr grew up in Kewanee and graduated from high school there. He enlisted in the military at age 21. He graduated ninth in his class at Fort Bragg and was sent to Vietnam in 1963, initially to serve one term, his father said.
"He came back and decided to be an officer," Mr. Orr said. "He worked hard to make that happen and went back as a second lieutenant. In two years, he was a captain. He moved up pretty rapidly."
On May 12, 1968, Captain Orr's team was assigned to evacuate panicked Vietnamese citizens from the Kham Duc Special Forces Camp near Da Nang, South Vietnam, following a massive attack on the area.
Captain Orr's job was to protect civilians -- a job he took great pride in, according to his father.
"At the time of his death, his main duty was taking care of refugees that were being displaced," Mr. Orr explained. "And he enjoyed his work. He believed in what he was doing and was very proud of what he was doing. He was trying to help people. And that's how he died, trying to help people."
While under extreme enemy ground fire, Captain Orr and others boarded a C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft and took off. According to the Department of Defense, another aircraft flying in the area at the time reported seeing the C-130 explode in midair soon after liftoff.
It was initially unclear what exactly became of Captain Orr.
"They said he was missing in action because nobody on the ground had actually seen him get on that airplane," Mr. Orr explained. "So they didn't know if he had gotten on the plane or if he was captured."
It wasn't until February, 1994, when remains were excavated near the crash site that Captain Orr was declared dead. Up until that point, he had been classified as missing.
Mr. Orr placed a memorial headstone in Arlington National Cemetery at that time and is happy that it will soon be replaced when his son is buried there.
"I'm very proud of him. He's going to have a nice funeral and be buried where he wanted to be buried," Mr. Orr said. "He always said if anything happened to him, he wanted to be buried in Arlington. I thought it would never happen after all these years."
Captain Orr's remains were positively identified by the U.S. Department of Defense's POW/Missing Personnel Office using mitochondrial DNA and dental comparisons.
His younger brother, Gregory, also served during Vietnam. Injured by a grenade, he returned home only two months before his brother disappeared. The brothers got within 90 miles of one another, but never served together, Mr. Orr said.
Having, himself, served in the Pacific during World War II, Mr. Orr said if he could say anything to his son today, it would be "job well done."
And he would like to tell everyone else to "be proud of your military personnel and support them, even if you don't agree with what they're doing. After all, we are the greatest nation in the world."
The Orrs moved to California in 1965. Captain
Orr's mother died some time ago.
Friday, October 5, 2007
Father lays doubts to rest
Warren Orr Sr. is planning a funeral for his son, who died – he now knows – nearly 40 years ago in Vietnam.
By DOUG IRVING
Courtesy of The Orange County Register
The call came in the morning, same as the knock on the door all those years before.
Warren Orr Sr. was eating his Cheerios when his cell phone rang. The woman on the line said she was calling from the Pentagon. She had some information about his son.
It had been nearly 40 years since an Army officer had knocked on his door and told him about a plane crash in South Vietnam. He had never really doubted that his son, Warren Jr., had been on that plane. But, until the Pentagon called earlier this year, he had no way to know for sure.
The Department of Defense officially announced this week that it had identified the remains of two U.S. servicemen missing in action since the Vietnam War. One of them was a young officer with bright blue eyes who always carried candy to give to the kids he saw: Captain Warren R. Orr Jr.
“There's always that faint hope flickering,” said Orr Sr., now 86 and living in Santa Ana. “Now that they're going to have a funeral, why, I can have closure, and know that he's in peace.”
His son grew up in small-town Illinois. He was one month shy of 20 years old when he boarded a bus for Peoria, and went to sign his name at a recruiting station.
He went to Vietnam first as a military adviser in 1963; later, he re-enlisted for the infantry. “His ambitious and forceful leadership,” his commanding officer wrote in 1967, “made every encounter with the enemy a resounding victory.”
Captain Orr wrote his father in May 1968 to say he was on his way to a small base in South Vietnam, to help evacuate the families of South Vietnamese fighters. It was the last letter his father received from him.
On May 12, 1968, a military transport plane loaded with evacuees thundered down a remote airstrip in South Vietnam. It came under heavy fire, exploded, then crashed into a hillside.
Witnesses had seen Captain Orr loading people onto the plane just before it left, but no Americans had actually seen him get on. An investigation in 1969 determined that he “could have sought cover from the mortar fire and become separated or he could have boarded the aircraft.”
It concluded: “Fate remains unknown.”
“I knew he was on that plane,” his father says now. “In my heart, I was positive he was on that plane.”
Orr Sr. had a memorial to his son placed at Arlington National Cemetery. He visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., and left flowers.
In the years that followed, people living near the crash site would find pieces of bone and wreckage when they scavenged the area for scrap metal. In 1993, they led a team of U.S. and Vietnamese investigators to the site.
They found pieces of old watches, dog tags, 10 keys, a penny, a nickel and a dime. And they found bones, including two pieces of leg bone that held enough DNA to make a positive identification.
On September 19, a few weeks after the Pentagon had first called, an officer with the Army's Past Conflict Repatriations Branch came to visit the elder Orr. He gave him a spiral-bound booklet that laid out the evidence to prove, finally, that his son had died in that plane crash all those years ago.
The few bone fragments that remain will be buried with full military honors next month in Arlington National Cemetery, along with Captain. Orr's medals and uniform.
Orr Sr. still has his son's Army portrait hanging in the living room, above a small table with a case full of medals. He has his son's dog tag now, too, slipped into the corner of the portrait frame.
ORR, WARREN R JR
Posted: 3 October 2007 Updated: 6 October 2007 Updated: 19 April 2009
Photo By Holly, April 2009