Air Force AC-130 Crew Buried In Arlington National Cemetery – November 1995

From contemporary press reports:

Nov 1, 1995:  Bone and teeth fragments unearthed 2 years ago at the crash site of an USAF gunship shot down over Laos in 1970 left some relatives unconvinced that their loved ones died. Now, the families of the 10 servicemen that the govt presumes were killed are demanding more tests of the remains. The government, however, says there is nothing more that can be done and plans a burial for next week.

“These men and our families deserve a better fate than a declaration of death by association,” said Patti Hallman, whose father, Colonel Charles S. Rowley, was aboard the AC-130 gunship. Relatives argue that even govt experts concluded the remains — more than 1,400 bone fragments and a half-dozen teeth –could have come from only one person. They want DNA testing done on the fragments to try to make a positive identification.

“They have not proved beyond a doubt that my father was on that plane,” said Karen Brooks Folger of Abilene, TX, whose father, Colonel William Brooks, was listed among the victims. “We can't see the remains. We can't have any testing done. To me, this is not closure.”

The Pentagon plans to bury the remains with full military honors on November 8, 1995 at Arlington National Cemetery. The bones will be placed in a single coffin under a marker bearing the names of 9 of the 10 men. One family asked that the name of their loved one be left off.

“I don't really think we'll be able to stop it,” said Ms. Folger, who plans to attend the burial despite her objections. “I'm going because I feel that this is a way to honor my father. This, to me, is a memorial ceremony –and that's all.” Ms. Hallman said she will travel to the service from her home in nearby Middlesex County “out of respect.”

Only one person who parachuted to safety was able to survive the April 22, 1970 crash. And though relatives acknowledge the remaining 10 were on the plane, they believe they may have survived and ended up in prisoner of war camps. Hallman, for example, says another POW reported seeing her father after the crash. The families said they have been told that the bones, after a quarter-century of exposure to the elements, aren't in good enough condition for DNA testing. “We tried to pay to have our own forensics,” said Ginger Davis, a Virginia Beach woman whose husband, Colonel Charlie Davis, was on the flight. “All we got was no, no, no. … That plane could have landed on a Laotian peasant.” Johnny Webb, deputy director of the Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii where the remains from the crash were examined, said the recovered bone fragments were small and showed evidence of burning. “That would, in most cases, destroy the DNA,” he said. But the families hope the burial won't end the matter and are looking to Congress. Rep Robert K. Dornan, a California Republican, has co-sponsored a bill that would require the govt to review such cases under certain circumstances.

“A key provision is you cannot be declared dead strictly on the passage of time,” said Al Santoli, a Dornan aide. “We've had a couple of cases of families in the same predicament — declaring people dead without having proof.”

November 1, 1995:

Relatives of a group of US airmen lost over Laos in the Vietnam War Tuesday demanded a halt to a Pentagon-planned group burial of 1,550 bone fragments at Arlington National Cemetery.

In a statement, relatives of four of the men said the Defense Dept had failed to use common DNA testing to link any of the fragments, none larger than a third of a rib, to any of the 10 men lost aboard an AC-130 aircraft on Apr 22, 1970.

“They're trying to bury 10 men under that guise,” Patricia Hallman, daughter of the flight's chief navigator, USAF Colonel Charles Rowley, said in a telephone interview. She said the group burial, scheduled for November 8, was “an easy, quick way to get rid of the MIA-POW issue,” short for missing-in-action and prisoner-of-war.

Unanswered questions about the fate of the 2,170 Americans still listed as unaccounted for throughout Indochina has complicated recently normalized US relations with Vietnam. A Pentagon official said DNA “sequencing” techniques, commonly used to establish identity, had not been used because the remains were too charred and splintered. “A combination of burning and fragmentation made it impossible to get a useable sample from which DNA could be taken for positive identification,” the official said. He said group burials were commonly resorted to when “historical circumstances and intelligence” data suggested an entire crew may have died in a crash, even though no one could be identified individually. Beverly Baker, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the aircraft was lost near Ban Tang Lou during an armed reconnaissance mission. The remains were recovered during a joint US-Lao excavation of the crash site and repatriated on November 15, 1993. The Pentagon identified the remains on September 26, 1995.

Thomas Yuji Adachi
Senior Master Sergeant, United States Air Force
Born April 3, 1946, he became a member of the Air Force while in Los  Angeles, California.

William Leslie Brooks
Colonel, United States Air Force
Born April 24, 1933, he  became a member of the Air Force while in Tolar,  Texas.

Charlie Brown Davis, Jr.
Colonel, United States Air Force
Born January 18, 1929, he became a member of the Air Force while in Daysboro, Kentucky.

Donald Garth Fisher
Colonel, United States Air Force
Born June 27, 1930, he became a member of the Air Force while in  Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

Ronnie Lee Hensley
Senior Master Sergeant, United States Air Force
Born June 8, 1948, he became a member of the Air Force while in  Richwood, West Virginia.

Robert Newell Ireland
Chief Master Sergeant, United States Air Force
Born July 11, 1935, he became a member of the Air Force while in San  Bernardino, California.

rnireland-photo-01 rnireland-photo-02 rnireland-photo-03

Donald Michael Lint
Senior Master Sergeant, United States Air Force
Born September 17, 1948, he became a member of the Air Force while in Des  Moines, Iowa.

Charles Stoddard Rowley
Colonel, United States Air Force
Born May 14, 1931, he became a member of the Air Force while in Riverton,  Connecticut.

John Cline Towle
Captain, United States Air Force
Born January 9, 1943, he became a member of the Air Force while in  Harrisburg, Illinois.

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