Arthur Charles Buck – Lieutenant (jg), United States Navy

  • Date of Birth: 10/23/1941
  • Date of Casualty: 1/11/1968
  • Home of Record: SANDUSKY, OHIO
  • Branch of Service: NAVY
  • Rank: LTJG
  • Casualty Country: LAOS
  • Casualty Province: LZ
  • Status: MIA

United States Department of Defense 
Number 370-03


The remains of nine U.S. Navy crewmembers, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and their remains are being returned to their families for burial.

The nine are identified as Commander Delbert A. Olson, Casselton, North Dakota; Lieutenants (jg) Denis L. Anderson, Hope, Kansas; Arthur C. Buck, Sandusky, Ohio; and Philip P. Stevens, Twin Lake, Michigan; Petty Officers Second Class Richard M. Mancini, Amsterdam, New York; Michael L. Roberts, Purvis, Mississippi, Donald N. Thoresen and Kenneth H. Widon, Detroit, Michigan; and Petty Officer Third Class Gale R. Siow, Huntington Park, California.

A group burial will be held at Arlington National Cemetery on June 18, 2003.

The nine departed Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base on January 11, 1968 onboard a Navy OP-2E Neptune aircraft for a mission over Laos to drop sensors which detected enemy movements. During its last radio contact, the crew reported they were descending through dense clouds. When they did not return to their home base, a search was initiated but found no evidence of a crash. Two weeks later, an Air Force aircrew photographed what appeared to be the crash site, but enemy activity in the area prevented a recovery operation.

Between 1993 and 2002, six U.S.-Lao investigation teams led by the Joint Task Force Full Accounting interviewed villagers in the surrounding area, gathered aircraft debris and surveyed the purported crash site scattered on two ledges of Phou Louang Mountain in Khammouan Province. During a 1996 visit, team members also recovered identification cards for several crewmembers, as well as human remains.

Full-scale recovery missions by the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii (CILHI) in both 2001 and 2002 yielded additional remains, as well as identification of other crewmembers. More than 1,900 Americans are missing in action from the Vietnam War, with another 86,000 MIA from the Cold War, the Korean War and WWII.

SANDUSKY, OHIO – 12 January 2002

On an isolated, mist-shrouded mountain in eastern Laos, amid tangles of electrical wire and nests of venomous vipers, lies a clue to Sandusky's only Vietnam War veteran still classified as Missing In Action.

In Sandusky, a memory has been kept alive for 34 years. Gary Buck says he has moved on with his life, but still waits for closure in the death of his younger brother, a man he describes as “self-made.”

Arthur Charles “Charlie” Buck was once bedridden for a year with a mysterious illness when he was 9 years old. He recovered with a vengeance, building himself into an athlete and ultimately, Lieutenant Junior Grade in the United States Navy.

In addition to leaving him bedridden for a year, Charlie's illness caused him a lot of pain in his legs. But he was a lifelong sports fanatic and wasn't going to let his passion get sidelined.

“He started excersising every day, lifting weights,” said Gary, a retired contractor and United States Army veteran. “He got out of bed and didn't look back. He overcame a handicap and made himself into an athlete.”

Charlie Buck played football and was on the wrestling team at Sandusky High School, graduating in 1960. He graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, where he won a football scholarship, studied liberal arts and debated becoming a coach or going into busines. Neither was to be.

“Charlie was a volunteer, and he wanted to be where the action was,” Gary said. Charlie Buck belonged to secret squadron VO-67. Eight other men were in the group.

Their mission was secret. It stayed secret for thirty years. They were to sprinkle the jungle with sensors so delicate they would detect footsteps or eavesdrop on hushed conversations.

Other planes would then be able to pick up transmissions from the sensors to bomb enemy convoys. On 11 January 1968, 26-year-old Charlie and his eight crewmembers were aboard an OP-2E Neptune, a United States Navy patrol plane, when it went down in Laos. For years, his family only knew the mission was dangerous — and very secret.

“He didn't consult anyone, he just went,” Gary said. “Our parents were very proud of him.”

None of the nine men have been officially recovered and identified, although recovery teams now scouring the area have found possible remains of two people. Parts of the plane have been found, although researchers are not sure if the plane was shot down or it crashed into the side of the mountain.

It has been 34 years since a naval officer brought the news of Charlie's disappearance to Gary and his late parents at their McArthur Park home.

“It was very shocking,” Gary Buck said. “They said there was no chance of survivors from Charlie's crash, but without confirmation, you still have hope.”

Military personnel who flew over the crash site, and took photos, said survival was unlikely. At first, Gary was told it was impossible to even reach the area where the plane had gone down.

Today, Gary describes the current efforts as “tremendous” because he believes the cause is of premium importance.

“They need to make very effort,” Gary said.

He has been in contact with some of the other families of the squadron. Some follow the recovery efforts closely, making trips to Washington, D.C., doing anything they can to keep hope alive.

“For some of them, it's a way of life,” he said.

Gary said he relates to the families and friends of the nearly 3,000 victims of the World Trade Center attacks and their need for closure.

“You try to go on with your life. But now that there is a possibility that they might find remains — it gives us hope.”

Since 1973, the remains of 591 American servicemen lost in Vietnam, formerly listed as unaccounted for, have been identified and returned to their families. There are 1,950 Americans still unaccounted for from the war in Southeast Asia, the majority in Vietnam.

The team working on the Neptune crash is part of a larger recovery operation — the Hawaii-based Joint Task Force – Full Accounting. It began in 1992 when the military created it to manage the recovery efforts in Southeast Asia, specifically looking for servicemen from the Vietnam War.

The task force has overseen 590 digs like Charlie's in the past decade, and is comprised of 161 investigators, analysts, linguists, and other specialists representing all four military services and Department of the Navy civilian employees. The task force works with the United States Army Central Identification Laboratory, also based in Hawaii. CILHI search and recovery teams consist of members with specilized skills in anthropology, logistics, photography, explosive ordnance disposal, medicine, mortuary affairs, linguistics and radio communications.

CILHI has the largest staff of forensic anthropologists in the world and several hold the highest board certificates in forensic anthropology. Each year, the task force receives $20 million for its operations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, according to Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara, the task force's spokesman, stationed at Camp H.M. Smith in Hawaii. He wishes the budget was even larger becuse the return on the investment is “priceless.”

“You ask anyone who works here, and they'll say we're looking for the families,” O'Hara said. “The moms, dads, wives, nephews — we're working as hard as we can for them. People can begin to find closure for what happened during that war.”

But the task force is not just about those who served in the past.

“We're doing this for me,” O'Hara said. “Me, and the million other guys and girls wearing uniforms. It is reassuring to know that if we make the ultimate sacrifice in service, someone is going to be working as hard as they can to bring them back.”

The force keeps family members up-to-date on the digs, and O'Hara said that the base often receive tips from Vietnam veterans who have returned to the country and have their own tips.

Nothing will make the snakes and cliffs any easier to deal with, but the task force acknowledged opportunities for recoveries have increased because of “an increased willingness by the governments of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to share information they have regarding unaccounted-for Americans, as well as increased access to files, records, and witnesses in their countries.”

“And the weather,” O'Hara said. “That's a big factor.”

Weather windows have set the schedule for searching the site of Charlie Buck's crash, which O'Hara describes as “extremely dangerous” even without monsoons.

“You have to fly in by helicopter , hike through very thick jungle. These guys have to rappel down a cliff to get to the site,” O'Hara said.

Parts of two bodies, yet to be identified, were found during the task force's first visit in March 1996.

It often takes months, or years, to identify the remains, O'Hara said, if they can be identified at all.

Before the March 1996 trip, the team members investigated the possible site three times before digging. The last trip to the site was March 2001, and another trip is planned for February. Each trip lasts about 30-35 days, and a team of about 10 is sent.

Even the dedicated force must sometimes give up, althouh they leave that decision to the anthropologists.

“When they say there's nothing that can be determined from an artifact or from an area, we listen to them,” O'Hara said. “But that's why we go to sites again and again. We have to be able to make an ironclad case to families that we have done all we can for their loved ones.”

U.S. Identifies Vietnam-Era Navy Remains

27 May 2003

The military has identified remains of nine Navy crew members killed when their surveillance plane crashed in Laos during the Vietnam War, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.

The nine will be buried June 18, 2003, in a joint observance at Arlington National Cemetery.

The men were aboard a Navy OP-2E Neptune plane that crashed into a mountain in Laos in January 1968. The remains were recovered during six U.S.-Lao missions to the crash site between 1993 and last year, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The crew members were: 

  • Captain Delbert A. Olson of Casselton, North Dakota
  • Lieutenant (jg) Dennis L. Anderson of Hope, Kansas
  • Lieutenant (jg) Arthur C. Buck of Sandusky, Ohio
  • Lieutenant (jg) Philip P. Stevens of Twin Lake, Michigan
  • Petty Officer Second Class Richard M. Mancini of Amsterdam, New York
  • Petty Officer Second Class Michael L. Roberts of Purvis, Mississippi
  • Petty Officer Second Class Donald N. Thoresen of Detroit, Michigan
  • Petty Officer Second Class Kenneth H. Widon of Detroit, Michigan
  • Petty Officer Third Class Gale R. Siow of Huntington Park, California

Their plane left a base in Thailand on January 11, 1968, on a mission to drop sensors in Laos to detect enemy movements, the Pentagon statement said. The crew reported their plane's descent through dense clouds in its last radio transmission.

Two weeks after the crash, an Air Force crew photographed what was believed to have been the crash site, but enemy activity in the area prevented a recovery operation, the statement said.

Investigators interviewed villagers near the site and found debris on two ledges of Phou Louang mountain in Khammouan province of Laos, the statement said. The teams recovered identification cards for several crew members during a 1996 visit. Other visits yielded human remains and other identifying items from the wreckage.

29 May 2003:

After 35 years, nine Navy fliers killed in Vietnam War will be buried

Topeka, Kansas – Next month, at Arlington National Cemetery, Sue Jenkins will fulfill a request her late husband made 36 years ago, before he left for service in Vietnam.

Lieutenant (jg) Denis Anderson, a Navy flier who grew up in Hope, Kansas, told his wife of almost a year that if anything happened to him, he wanted to be buried at Arlington.

The request came “casually out of the blue,” Jenkins, who grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, recalled Wednesday. “I thought he said he wanted to be buried at the national cemetery in Abilene. But there's no national cemetery there. He probably said Arlington. I didn't want to hear it anyway.”

David Olson of Prairie Village will be at Arlington next month as well, and he will reach what he calls closure. He was 7 years old when his father, Navy Commander Delbert A. Olson of Casselton,  North Dakota, last hugged him goodbye.

Denis Anderson and Delbert Olson never made it home from Southeast Asia.

On January 11, 1968, they and seven other crew members were aboard a OP-2E Neptune on a mission over Laos when the plane crashed into the side of a mountain.

There they remained for more than 30 years.


  • LT(JG)   US NAVY
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 10/23/1941
  • DATE OF DEATH: 01/11/1968

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