UNACCOUNTED-FOR SERVICEMEN RETURN HOME
Remains of five American servicemen previously unaccounted-for from Southeast Asia and World War II were recently returned to the US. Individual remains of Colonel Donald M. Russell, USAF, of Westbrook, Maine and Captain John W. Kennedy, USAF, of Arlington, Virginia. have been identified. Group remains including Lieuteantn Clyde A. Tucker Jr., US Navy, of Alexandria, Lousiana, and Aviation Radioman Second Class Stephen D. Bakran, USN, of Wells, Michigan, have been identified. Bakran has also been individually identified.
Russell was the pilot of an F-105D Thunderchief aircraft in a four-ship formation flying a flak suppression mission over Laos on December 5, 1967. The aircraft was observed by a forward air controller entering a flat spin, caught fire and crashed. During 1994, two U.S. – Lao joint recovery teams investigated the crash site and recovered remains and materials, including a tag which aided in the identification.
Kennedy was the pilot of an O-2A Skymaster on a visual reconnaissance mission over South Vietnam on August 16, 1971. Radio contact was lost with his aircraft, and a search and rescue mission was launched about an hour later. Electronic and visual surveillance of Kennedy's last known location continued for another week, without success. Joint recovery teams of the U.S. and Vietnam recovered his remains and portions of the aircraft on several excavations in 1992 and 1993. The remains of one U. S. Army soldier were shipped earlier last month from Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii to the U.S. His name is being withheld at the request of the family.
On October 4, 1943, Tucker and Bakran launched from the U. S. Navy carrier USS Ranger in an SBD-5 “Dauntless” bomber. Their mission was to attack enemy shipping in Bodo Harbor, Norway. While on an attack run, their bomber was struck by enemy anti-aircraft fire, and crashed into the sea.
In early 1990, amateur divers located the wreckage in 150 feet of water. The Norwegian government undertook diving operations in late 1990 but recovered no remains. In 1993, amateur divers discovered human remains. A U.S. Government team traveled to Norway to examine the remains, which were then transferred to the U.S. for further examination. The remains of Tucker were identified through forensic techniques, and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in 1994.
Further dives by the government of Norway yielded additional remains, which were positively identified by the Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii, as those of Bakran through mitochondrial DNA testing.
National Security Advisor Tony Lake visited Detachment Two of the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting in Hanoi last week where he received an update on recovery operations in Vietnam. Later, he visited a site near DaNang where a JTF-FA team was conducting a remains recovery excavation.
Lake thanked the men and women involved in the recovery operations, and said that accounting for American servicemen “is an extraordinary human issue. It is a matter of the most fundamental importance to families all across America. I want to thank everyone out here for their … good and hard work in this effort.”
He also touched on the private veteran-to-veteran initiatives that have opened doors in the search for information on Americans still missing.
“Many [Vietnamese government officials] have mentioned to me,” he said, “how our veterans organizations have encouraged our veterans who have mementos that they brought back from Vietnam to try to be helpful with any specific leads they have about missing Vietnamese.”
Lake served two years as a diplomat in Vietnam in the early 60's, and speaks fluent Vietnamese.
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard