Thomas H. Amos – Major, United States Air Force, Mason I. Burnham – Captain, United States Air Force



From a contemporary press report

Vietnam-Era Fliers Buried in Arlington

A military honor guard on May 25, 1999 laid to rest the recently discovered remains of Major Thomas H. Amos, a U. S. Air Force F-4 pilot, and Captain Mason I. Burnham, his navigator, killed when their F-4 plunged into a Laotian forest near the Ho Chi Minh Trail on April 20, 1972.

Amos and Burnham were assigned to the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, based at Da Nang in South Vietnam. They were flying a night escort mission with an AC-130 gunship when they abruptly ceased radio contact. Witnesses saw a fireball, with no parachutes.

In 1989, two Vietnamese looking for incense wood stumbled on the wreckage in a remote part of Quang Nam-Da Nang province. The US Air Force interviewed the pair four years later and began recovery efforts at the crash site in 1994.

The difficult terrain made recovery work slow. The discovery of unexploded ordnance caused authorities to halt the search in June 1998. By then, however, searchers had recovered enough bone fragments and other items to positively identify Amos and Burnham.

They also recovered the men's dog tags. Burnham's tags were returned to his daughter, Kim Heddinger, last summer. She has worn them almost every day since, “because he wore them next to his heart when he was killed,” she told an interviewer in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon.

Vietnam pilot to get homecoming burial 28 years after death
Monday, June 12, 2000

EUGENE, Oregon — A pilot who died during the Vietnam War 28 years ago will be laid to rest in Salem this week.

It will be the second funeral for U.S. Air Force Captain Mason Burnham. His  unidentifiable remains were buried during a May 25 ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

The identified remains, along with all the medals the pilot earned, will be buried Saturday.

“If it's anything like the one in Arlington, it'll just be awesome,” Burnham's daughter, Kim Heddinger, said Friday.

Burnham died when his F-4D Phantom jet was shot down over Laos while flying escort on a bombing run near the Vietnam border in May 1972. The wreckage wasn't discovered until 1989, and attempts to recover the remains of Burnham and a second pilot stretched from 1993 to 1998.

Heddinger flew to Arlington for the service honoring her father and the jet's other pilot, Major Thomas Amos of Missouri.

“Taps” was played at the grave, an honor guard fired a 21-gun salute and four F-16 jets performed a flyover in the “missing man” formation.

“When the guy played ‘Taps,' this light mist came down on us,” said Heddinger, who was 6 when her father's aircraft disappeared. “But it only lasted like 10 or 15 seconds and then stopped, so we all knew it was like tears from heaven.”

Burnham was born September 19, 1943, in Okmulge, Oklahoma. He lived in Salem, Vancouver, Washington, and Roseburg before moving to Eugene in 1964. He
received a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Oregon in 1968.

In addition to his daughter, Burnham is survived by his wife, Judy Thomas, a son, brother and one grandchild.


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