All posts in “MIA”

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Flightdeck Friday – MIA Edition: WWII Navy Aircrew Returns Home

Last year, a small group of us spent the better part of the summer and fall writing on the Solomons Campaign.  That drawnout slugfest in the southwest Pacific receives little notice beyond Guadalcanal and some discussions regarding Santa Cruz.  The purpose of that exercise (here and over at USNI’s blog) was to surface the larger – and smaller aspects of that entire campaign and put it in context of the overall Pacific theater campaign.  Well, in the (e)mail this past week came a small piece of that campaign as relates to the Bougainville Invasion from November through December 1943:

The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of two servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.  Navy Lt. Francis B. McIntyre of Mitchell, S.D., will be buried on Sept. 29, and Aviation Radioman Second Class William L. Russell of Cherokee, Okla., will be buried on Oct. 1. Both men will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

On Nov. 10, 1943, the two men took off on a bombing and strafing mission in their SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber from Munda Field, New Georgia, in the Solomon Islands.  Witnesses last saw the aircraft flying at low altitude through a large explosion on an enemy airfield on Buka Island, Papua New Guinea.  None reported seeing the crash of the aircraft itself.  The American Graves Registration Service searched numerous South Pacific Islands in 1949 in an effort to gather data about aircraft crashes or missing Americans.  The team was unable to find any useful information, and failed to recover any American remains in the area.  A board of review declared both men unrecoverable.  In 2007, a Papuan national found a World War II crash site near the Buka airport, which was reported to U.S. officials.  In May 2008, specialists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), working with the country’s national museum, investigated the crash site but were unable to excavate it because of inclement weather.  Local officials turned over human remains, McIntyre’s identification tag and other military-related items which had been recovered earlier.  After examining the remains in 2008 and 2009, JPAC determined that no excavation would be required since the two sets of remains were nearly complete.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC used dental comparisons for both men and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA which matched a sample from Russell’s relatives and DNA extracted from a hat belonging to McIntyre.

At the end of World War II, the U.S. government was unable to recover, identify and bury approximately 79,000 individuals. Today, more than 72,000 Americans remain unaccounted-for from the conflict.”

But wait — there’s more…

AirSols, formerly the Cactus Air Force (and truth be known, always thought of as such) had grown from a ragged band of Navy and Army Air Force fighters and attack aircraft hanging precariously to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal to large force spread across several airfields throughout the Allied occupied Solomon islands.  Working in concert (though not always coordinated) with carrier-based aircraft, surface ships and subs, they choked off Japanese transport and supply throughout the Solomons, waged an aggressive campaign against the major Japanese facility at Rabul and provided support to amphib and shore operations as needed.  And this November, as the Solomons campaign was drawing to a close, it would be needed in the coming invasion of Bougainville.  The first forces had gone ashore on 1 November, and following a botched attempt to interdict and destroy the American beachhead at Empress Bay and a devastating strike against a heavy cruiser force the following day, the Japanese Navy was not going to factor.  The Americans with their ANZUS allies were gaining local air superiority and set about sealing that by attacking fortified airfields like Rabul and other outlying fields.  One such field was located at the northern end of Bougainville – Buka.  Begun by the Australians, after the Japanese invaded and took the island in March 1942, they set about expanding it to accommodate the G4M1 Betty medium bomber, which, along with other aircraft like the Kate, they hoped to control the littorals.

Buka airfield’s turn came on 10 November 1943.  A composite strike group of 34 TBF Avengers (armed with 2,000 lb bombs with a 1/10 sec delay) and 55 SBD Dauntlesses, carrying 1,000 pounders set for instantaneous detonation would be escorted by another 54 fighters.  Distance to cover would be about 230-235nm with most resistance expected to be in the form of AA fire.  Manning up a VC-24 SBD-5 Dauntless (BuNo 35391)was the crew consisting of the pilot, LT Francis B. ( ‘Riley’ ) McIntyre from Mitchell, South Dakota and his radioman/gunner Aviation Radioman Second Class William L. Russell, of Cherokee, Oklahoma. VC-24 had been converted to an all SBD squadron and kept ashore when the CVL they were destined for, USS Bellau Wood (CVL-24) was assigned to the Gilberts invasion.  Riley, the youngest of five brothers, was raised by them after their mother passed away in 1924 and their father in 1934.  While he was in the Pacific, his  brother John, was flying B-17s with the 8th AF in England (he would later die over Germany) and another brother, Joe, who was the lead bombardier with a B-26 squadron in the 9th Air Force.  Mathew was also serving in the Army and Don had joined a Navy CB unit.  Today he would be leading his division in the attack.

By all accounts it was a highly successful attack — beginning at 0810L the SBDs did an admirable job at taking out most of the AA batteries early in the attack and the runway would be put out of commission with 7 craters (from the delayed fuze bombs).  An ammo dump was also destroyed along with many buildings around the field.  In all likelihood, it was the explosion of the ammo dump that probably killed McIntyre and Russell.  In a letter sent to his relatives, the CO of VF-24 wrote:

“Francis was leading a division of planes in an attack on a Japanese-held airfield in the northern Solomon Islands on Nov. 10, 1943. He had dropped his bomb load, hit the target, and was flying low when his plane was seen to pass through the blast of a large explosion on the enemy base.  Another pilot said Francis’ plane “appeared to go out of control.”  This, the letter said, had been Francis’ fourth flight in enemy territory. Francis, it said, “led his division skillfully and with good effect on each of them.”

So it was that in the brief flash of an instant – a young JO from Washington and Sailor from Oklahoma vanished in flame and fire and with them, their Dauntless built just up the road from Russell’s home in Tulsa.  For the next 64 years the plane and crew would be carried as “missing – presumed dead” while time and the elements worked to erase any signatory remnants.  As we’ve written here before, the jungles of SE Asia and the Southwest Pacific are especially destructive when it comes to eradicating man’s work, and where, for example, an aircraft that landed short of a runway in Greenland can remain pristinely preserved in the Arctic chill for decades, serving as a talisman for future aircrew, in the jungle, vegetation and mud from the ever present rainfall make quick work of crash sites.  A chance discovery, however slim, is enough though to put DPMO’s forensic teams to work in the most trying of field conditions.  And so it is, through their efforts, that we can report the return of LT. Francis B. “Riley” McIntyre, USNR and AR2 William L. Russell, USNR to their families and native soil.  Today, 1 October 2010,  nearly sixty-seven years after they launched from a remote field in the Solomons, they will be interred in Arlington Cemetery.  And we welcome them home – wishing now for eternal rest and peace.


References:

Article Series - Solomon Islands Campaign Blog Project

  1. The Solomons Campaign: Geographical and Political Background
  2. The Solomons Campaign: Status of the United States Fleet and Plans After Midway
  3. The Imperial Japanese Navy after Midway
  4. The Solomon Islands Campaign: Prelude to the Series
  5. The Solomons Campaign: WATCHTOWER — Why Guadalcanal?
  6. The Solomons Campaign: Guadalcanal 7-9 August, 1942; Assault and Lodgment
  7. The Solomons Campaign: Unleashing the Assassin’s Mace
  8. The Solomons Campaign: Execution at Savo Island
  9. The Solomons Campaign: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons, 24-25 August 1942
  10. The Solomons Campaign: Strategic Pause and Review – Japan’s Last Chance for Victory?
  11. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part I
  12. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part II
  13. The Solomons Campaign: Cactus Air Force and the Bismarck Sea
  14. The Solomons Campaign: Operation Vengeance – The Shootdown Of Yamamoto
  15. The Solomons Campaign: Ground Action – The New Georgia Campaign, June 20-November 3, 1943
  16. The Solomons Campaign: The Bougainville Invasion, November – December 1943(Part I)
  17. The Bougainville Invasion: November – December 1943 (Part 2)
  18. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 3): December 1943 – March 1944
  19. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 4): March 1944 – May 1944
  20. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (Part I)
  21. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (II)
  22. Solomon Islands Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (III)
  23. Flightdeck Friday – MIA Edition: WWII Navy Aircrew Returns Home

Seven Missing WWII Airmen Identified

In the mail:

Seven Missing WWII Airmen Identified

The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of seven servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.


Army Capt. Joseph M. Olbinski, Chicago; 1st Lt. Joseph J. Auld, Floral Park, N.Y.; 1st Lt. Robert M. Anderson, Millen, Ga.; Tech. Sgt. Clarence E. Frantz, Tyrone, Penn.; Pfc. Richard M. Dawson, Haynesville, Va.; Pvt. Robert L. Crane, Sacramento, Calif.; and Pvt. Fred G. Fagan, Piedmont, Ala., were identified and all are to be interred July 15 in Arlington National Cemetery.


On May 23, 1944, the men were aboard a C-47A Skytrain that departed Dinjan, India, on an airdrop mission to resupply Allied forces near Myitkyina, Burma.  When the crew failed to return, air and ground searches found no evidence of the aircraft along the intended flight path.   In late 2002, a missionary provided U.S. officials a data plate from a C-47 crash site approximately 31 miles northwest of Myitkyina.  In 2003, a Burmese citizen turned over human remains and identification tags for three of the crew members.  A Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command team excavated the crash site in 2003 and 2004, recovering additional remains and crew-related equipment—including an identification tag for Dawson.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA – which matched that of some of the crewmembers’ families – as well as 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.

But wait — there’s more:

Far away from the battlefields in Sicily and North Africa, far from Guadalcanal and the Solomons and so far from London, Pearl Harbor and Washington DC that it may well have been on the far side of the moon.  Covering terrain that ran from the dank, fetid jungles of the Mandalay peninsula to the rooftop of the world, the Himalayas — this was the China-Burma-India Theater.  The first Americans began flying in theater as part of Claire Chenault’s American Volunteer Group (AVG), better known as the Flying Tigers.  As the war progressed and America entered following Pearl Harbor, one of the challenges to be faced was how to provide supplies to Chinese forces fighting the Japanese in the interior of China.  The main road road from Burma to China had been cut when Burma fell to the Japanese Army in the spring of 1942.  The only way to get supplies to Chiang Kai-shek’s forces was to fly it in while plans were drawn up to recapture northern Burma and build a new road.

Building on the experience of CNAC and Pan American Airways whch had been operating in the area since the late 1930s, the Army’s Air Transport Command, using elements of the 10th Air Force, began flying cargo “over the Hump” in late 1942.  By the spring of 1944 the lift effort had substantially grown and was beginning to look to supply the first B-29 missions operating from China to try and attack the Japanese homeland (a story for another day).  Initially, C-47 Skytrain’s and C-46 Commando’s were used to fly the routes — with the nod going to the Commando for it’s higher service ceiling than the C-47 and pressurized cabin.  Later heavier lift C-54’s were added, replacing war weary bombers and their cargo variants and the C-46 on the riskier portions of the route.

Airlift Routes in the CBI Theater

As such, the C-47s continued in the southern, and no less challenging parts of the theater.

Burmese Combat Theater of Operations (click to enlarge)

Hard on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River lies the city of Myitkyina.  Literally meaning “near the big river,” Myitkyina is the northern most terminus for rails and river traffic – anything going north would have to be brought in by portage, mule or small boat around the lower elevations, the terrain is just too rugged for anything else.  As such, Myitkyina was by default, a strategically important position and one that in the spring of 1944 was still being contested for between the 33rd Imperial Japanese Army and Allied ground forces under General “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell.

On the 23rd of May, 1944, Adolf Hitler, his mood already foul from an RAF attack on Berlin overnight (Berliners had long worn out calling Goering ‘liar’)  throws a major rage when at a factory tour he learns that Me262 jets are being produced as fighters — not a bomber that could be used against the expected Allied invasion fleet.  B-17 and B-24 bombers of the Eighth Air Force attack rail-yards and airfields across occupied northwestern Europe while their smaller kin, A-20 and B-26 tactical bombers and P-47 and P-51 fighters fan out to extend the damage to the transportation infrastructure, all in support of the coming month’s invasion.  In the English Channel, Royal Navy motor torpedo boats sink a German minesweeper while RN destroyers chase away an attempted mine-laying operation by a group of German S-boats off Brighton.  On the Italian peninsula, Allied forces throw themselves against the Gustav line as the Germans dig in to make a stand for the Italians and in the Pacific, the Japanese garrison on Wake is under attack by CTG 58.3 led by the USS Essex and across the Solomons, sea- and air-assaults on Japanese forces continue unabated.

Air drop to troops in Burma (Photo: William Vandivert./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images Jan 01, 1944)

At an airfield outside Dinjan, India the last part of the pre-flight inspection is underway.  The object – a long-in-the-tooth veteran C-47A Skytrain (aka Dakota).  Belonging to the 4th Troop Carrier Squadron of the 62nd Troop Carrier Group, they are recent arrivals in theater from operations in the Mediterranean.  The war was definitely heating up in the Imphal Valley and around Myitkyina.  Today’s mission would bring desperately needed supplies to the troops engaged around Myitkyina.  Capt Joseph M. Obilinski, already a decorated airman (DFC and Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster for operations in the Mediterranean Theater) and a native of Chicago, Illinois would be the mission pilot.  Accompanying him were the rest of his crew and cargo support personnel three members of Merrill’s Marauders(*) :

  • 1st Lt. Joseph J. Auld, Floral Park, N.Y.;
  • 1st Lt. Robert M. Anderson, Millen, Ga.;
  • Tech. Sgt. Clarence E. Frantz, Tyrone, Penn.;
  • Pfc. Richard M. Dawson (*), Haynesville, Va.;
  • Pvt. Robert L. Crane (*), Sacramento, Calif.;
  • and Pvt. Fred G. Fagan (*), Piedmont, Ala.

The flight would depart to the southeast, climbing over the Singpho and Namkiu mountain ridges enroute.  The terrain would vary wildly from the flat flood plains in India to mountain peaks over 20,000 ft tall, challenging the C-47 and its limited service ceiling.

Route of Flight (23 May 1944)

No one knows for certain what happened to the flight, except that it never arrived as expected.  Weather, the enemy, airframe fatigue — any of those or combination thereof could have conspired against them.  The inhospitable terrain was (and still is) notorious for hiding wreckage and remains — and over time, erasing all traces thereof.  Eventually a few aircraft dataplates and more importantly, dog tags and some human remains (likely bone fragments) made their way to the dedicated members of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command from a site northwest of the combat area.

View looking southeast towards the approximate location of the crash site (height of eye - 20,000 ft)

A citation for the 64th Troop Carrier Group and 4th Troop Carrier Squadron best summed the intensity of operations — and losses endured.  Welcome home all – may you and your families find the peace and rest you so richly deserve.

DISTINGUISHED UNIT CITATION

For action in the China-Burma-India Theater

WD GO 82, 1944

April 7 to 15 June 1944

The 64th Troop Carrier Group and the 4th Troop Carrier Squadron of the 62nd Troop Carrier Group are cited for outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations during the period 7 April to 15 June 1944. On 1 April 1944, the 64th Carrier Group and the 4th Troop Carrier Squadron were ordered from their stations in the Mediterranean Theater to India to give desperately needed support to isolated Allied units fighting in the Imphal Valley and Myitkyina areas. Complying with utmost speed, the C-47’s were dropping supplies to the surrounded forces within 6 days after take-off from Italy. Realizing that a defeat in this sector would imperil the entire Allied effort in India and China, air and ground personnel of the troop carrier squadrons valiantly and perseveringly struggled against the most disheartening odds throughout the emergency to accomplish their mission. Flights were made in the unarmed and unarmored aircraft during daylight and darkness, often in adverse weather over strange jungle and mountainous terrain, where enemy ground fire and aerial attack were continually encountered. Despite the loss of 11 airplanes because of enemy action, inclement weather, and the necessity of operating from inadequately prepared landing strips, all pilots displayed unfailing heroism and tenacity of purpose. During repeated attacks by Japanese aircraft the transport pilots held to course so aggressively and were so skillful in pursuing evasive action that one Zero crashed when outmaneuvered and a second probably was destroyed. Frequently, the aircraft and crews were subjected to hostile fire while landing and unloading on improvised airstrips which were completely surrounded by the enemy. As the crisis intensified, safety precautions were relaxed and Pararacks and parachutes removed to permit the carrying of increased cargo loads. Through unsurpassed determination and endurance, pilots and crew members were able to average 290 flying hours per individual for the two-and-one-half month emergency. Flying more than 6,000 sorties, aircraft of these units transported 35,000 troops, 13,000 tons of food and equipment, medical supplies, arms, ammunitions, and 390 mules, evacuating on return flights more than 3,500 Allied casualties. Through the proficiency and heroic self-sacrifice on the part of each member of the expedition in accomplishing almost impossible feats, the reinforced Allied army was enabled to resume the offensive and drive the enemy from this area. The gallantry, fighting spirit, and outstanding performance in combat displayed by the personnel of the 64th Troop Carrier Group and the 4th Troop Carrier Squadron in these vital operations reflect highest credit on themselves and the military service of the United States.

The seven men from this flight were buried in Arlington Cemetery on 15 July 2010.

Remembering LT Zilberman (VAW-121)

As previously reported, the Navy called off the search for the missing fourth crewmember of Bluetail 601, LT Steve Zilberman, USN of Columbus, Ohio declaring him lost at sea and presumed dead.   A memorial service in honor of LT Steve Zilberman, will be held this Thursday, 8 April 2010  at 10:00am at the Naval Station Norfolk base chapel (757-444-7361 for more info). The uniform will be Service Dress Blue or military equivalent and childcare will be available.  Please plan to be seated by 0945 to accommodate the family and senior attendees. Please re-post as desired to ensure widest dissemination.

Additionally, if you would like to make a donation in LT Zilberman’s memory and in support of his family, please consider a donation to the VAW-VRC Memorial Fund.  The mission of the VAW/VRC Memorial Scholarship Fund is to provide for the Navy family in the education of its children, and in particular, those of active duty or reserve service members, in the VAW and VRC communities who are lost as a result of a combat aircraft loss or as a result of a military aviation-related mishap, or U.S. Navy enlisted personnel who are lost as a result of a combat aircraft loss or as a result of a military aviation-related mishap while assigned to a VAW or VRC squadron. 

POW/MIA: “Prometheus” Unbound, The Last One Comes Home

"Prometheus" an AC-130A tail number 55-0044

In May 2008, I wrote of the final identification and return of the remains of two of the Prometheus’ crew, Maj Barclay B. Young and Sr. Master Sgt James K. Caniford, two of a crew of 14 lost one dark March night, 38 years ago. At the time, all but one MIA had been identified, that being (then) Capt Curtis Daniel Miller.
Today, closure has come for the crew of the Prometheus (c/s “Spectre 13″):

Air Force Pilot MIA From Vietnam War is Identified

The Department of Defense announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Air Force Maj. Curtis Daniel Miller of Palacios, Texas, will be buried on March 29 in the Dallas-Ft. Worth National Cemetery. Miller was part of a 14-man aircrew, all of which are now accounted-for. Remains that could not be individually identified are included in a group that will be buried together in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.  On March 29, 1972, 14 men were aboard an AC-130A Spectre gunship that took off from Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, on an armed reconnaissance mission over southern Laos. The aircraft was struck by an enemy surface-to-air missile and crashed. Search and rescue efforts were stopped after a few days due to heavy enemy activity in the area.
In 1986, joint U.S.- Lao People’s Democratic Republic teams, lead by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), surveyed and excavated the crash site in Savannakhet Province, Laos. The team recovered human remains and other evidence including two identification tags, life support items and aircraft wreckage. From 1986 to 1988, the remains were identified as those of nine men from this crew.

Welcome home — and may all of you now rest in peace…

Air Force Pilot Missing In Action From Vietnam War Is Identified

In the mail today:

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial.

Air Force Maj. Russell C. Goodman of Salt Lake City, Utah, will be honored this week at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., home of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbird demonstration team. At the time of his loss, Goodman was assigned to the Thunderbirds and was flying with the U.S. Navy on an exchange program. He will be buried in Alaska at a date determined by his family.

On Feb. 20, 1967, Goodman and Navy Lt. Gary L. Thornton took off in their F-4B Phantom from the USS Enterprise for a bombing mission against a railroad yard in Thanh Hoa Province, North Vietnam. They were struck by enemy antiaircraft fire and their plane exploded. Thornton was able to eject at just 250 feet altitude, but Goodman did not escape. Thornton survived and was held captive until his release in 1973.  Search and rescue attempts were curtailed because of heavy anti-aircraft and automatic weapons fire in the area of the crash.

But wait, there’s more…

20 Feb 1967.  Operation ROLLING THUNDER has been underway for almost two years now.  Today, USS Enterprise (CVAN 65), part of Task Force 77 operating on Yankee Station, is launching elements of Air Wing NINE on a strike to attack a railyard near the city of Tanh Hoa, in North Vietnam’s Tahn Hoa province.  In the strike package is an F-4B (NG 614/BuNo 150413) from VF-96.  Piloting “Showtime 614” was Maj Russell Goodman, on an exchange tour from the Air Force and a member of the 1964-65 Thunderbirds demonstration team.  Flying with him was his RIO (Radar Intercept Officer), ENS Gary L. Thorton, USN.

In North Vietnam, the leadership determined that since gaining air superiority over U.S. forces was out of the question, it would instead implement a policy of air deniability. At the beginning of the Rolling Thunder, North Vietnam possessed approximately 1,500 anti-aircraft weapons, most of which were of the light 37 and 57mm variety. Within one year, however, the U.S. estimated that the number had grown to over 5,000 guns, including 85 and 100mm radar-directed weapons. That estimate was later revised downward from a high of 7,000 in early 1967 to less than a thousand by 1972.  Additionally, North Vietnam’s deployment of SAMs was such that by 1967, North Vietnam had formed an estimated 25 SAM battalions (with six missile launchers each) which rotated among approximately 150 sites. With the assistance of the Soviet Union, the North Vietnamese had also quickly integrated an early warning radar system of more than 200 facilities which covered the entire country, tracking incoming U.S. raids, and then coordinating SAMs, anti-aircraft batteries, and MiGs to attack them.

During 1967 U.S. losses totaled 248 aircraft (145 Air Force, 102 Navy, and one Marine Corps).

Click on thumbnail to enlarge image

Somewhere south of the city of Tahn Hoa, an  S-75 Dvina (NATO designation: SA-2 GUIDELINE) surface to air missile is launched and approaches its target at speeds nearing Mach 3.  Near the target, its proximity fuse detonates the 430 lb fragmentation warhead, blowing debris in a lethal radius up to 150 ft.  Onboard Showtime 614, the aircraft is rocked by the blast, just off the portside and slightly below the wingline.  With communications lost to the pilot and the aircraft disintegrating around him, ENS Thorton ejects, his last image of Maj Goodman leaving him with the impression he was either dead or unconcscious because his head was down and wobbling back and forth.  Captured almost immediately by the North Vietnamese, ENS Thorton remained a POW until 4 March 1973 when he was reapatrioted along with the other American POWs as part of Operation Homecoming.  During his debriefing, ENS Thorton expressed his belief that Maj. Goodman did not eject.

Without confirmation though, Goodman would remain classified as MIA.  Back home, Maj Goodman left behind his wife of 12 years, June, two daughters and a son.

Between October 1993 and March 2008, joint U.S.-Vietnamese teams led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) investigated the crash site twice and conducted two excavations, recovering human remains and pilot equipment. The aircraft debris recovered correlates with the type of aircraft the men were flying.  Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA – which matched two of his maternal relatives — in the identification of Goodman’s remains.

The family learned their father’s remains had been identified about a week after their mother died Nov. 10 in Alaska, daughter Sue Stein told KTUU-TV in Anchorage.  Later this year, the children hope to spread their parents’ ashes on an Alaskan mountain. Before that though, the Thunderbirds will host a welcoming/remembrance ceremony at their homebase, Nellis AFB, tomorrow (13 January).

Maj. Richard Goodman (from left), U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron; Chaplain (Capt.) David Horton, 99th Air Base Wing; and members of the Goodman family salute as the remains of Maj. Russell C. Goodman are transferred Jan. 12, 2010, from an aircraft to a hearse at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

Rest easy Maj Goodman, and welcome home – may you find eternal peace and rest with your loved ones.

Note: this is my 1,000th post since beginning this blog some four years ago.  While it has covered a wide range of topics during that time, I can think of no better way to mark this milestone than the resolution of another MIA case by those wizards at the Joint POW Accounting Command. – SJS

Calling Former Marine F4U Drivers

Vmf215dt Looking for anyone who was part of VMF-215 from 1943-45, aviator, ground-pounder or those who may have flown with VMF-215 in combined or associated operations during that period.  Bryan Bender, a reporter with the Boston Globe, is looking for any of the above to flesh out a story he is working on stemming from earlier work on a returned MIA from that period and which was featured in an earlier Flightdeck Friday.  Feel free to go VFR direct — his contact info as follows:

email: bender@globe.com

Thanks All!
– SJS

Flightdeck Friday: MIA Edition – Missing WWII Airman Returns Home (UPDATE)

Courtesy Gary Koch, historian for the 474th FG, we have the pictures from Lt Packard’s funerl. Recall that he was involved in one of the largest air-to-air engagements in the ETO when 22 P-38s encountered a mixed formation of almost 80 German fighters.

Packard Funeral Pics

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

Navy Pilot Missing In Action From the Vietnam War is Identified

LTJG Bisz VA-163 Saints

The Official Press Release:

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

He is Lt. Cmdr. Ralph C. Bisz, U.S. Navy, of Miami Shores, Fla. His funeral arrangements are being set by his family.

On Aug. 4, 1967, Bisz took off in an A-4E Skyhawk from the USS Oriskany to bomb an enemy petroleum depot near Haiphong, Vietnam. As he neared the target, his aircraft was struck by an enemy surface-to-air missile and crashed near the town of Hai Duong in Hai Hung Province. No parachute was observed and no emergency beeper signal was received.

In 1988, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) repatriated to the United States human remains from Hai Hung Province, which they attributed to Bisz on the basis of their historical records of the shootdown as well as documentation of his burial.

Between 1988 and 2004, joint U.S./S.R.V. teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), conducted several investigations of the incident and surveyed the crash site. A team found aircraft wreckage at the site which was consistent with an A-4E Skyhawk. Teams also interviewed witnesses who recalled the crash and burial of the pilot in a nearby cemetery. Additionally, one witness indicated that he oversaw the exhumation of the American’s remains from the cemetery, and their turnover to district officials.

Between 1993 and 2004, 25 samples from the remains turned over in 1988 were submitted to several laboratories for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis, but yielded inconclusive results. In 2007, the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used refined DNA collection techniques and succeeded in obtaining verifiable mtDNA.

Using forensic identification tools, circumstantial evidence, mtDNA analysis and dental comparisons, scientists from JPAC identified the remains as those of Bisz.

And now, the rest of the story…

VA-163

The 1967-68 combat cruise of the Oriskany and CVW-16 was one of extraordinary trial by fire.  During Operation Rolling Thunder, Carrier Air Wing 16 suffered the highest loss rates of any unit in naval aviation during the Vietnam conflict. During 122 days of combat the USS Oriskany lost one-half the airplanes assigned to her and one-third of her pilots. Twenty aviators were killed or missing in action, seven taken prisoner of war, and thirty-nine aircraft lost.  Within CVW-16, VA-163, flying the A-4E Skyhawk, suffered three POW and 5 KIA.  This all came on te heels of the fire in October ’66.  Some specifics:

  • June 26, 1967: After Oriskany’s damages were repaired, the VA-163 Saints deployed with their A-4E Skyhawks for their fifth WestPac cruise and third Vietnam War combat deployment cruise (06-16-67 to 01-31-68) as part of Air Wing 16. This cruise provided heavy combat losses — between June and January Oriskany lost twenty pilots either MIA or KIA.
  • July 12, 1967: A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 150102 was lost in an operational accident. The pilot was recovered.
  • July 17, 1967: Lieutenant Commander Marvin Reynolds earned the Navy Cross for leading and coordinating a dangerous, complex, and successful rescue of a pilot downed in North Vietnam.
  • July 20, 1967: A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 150097 AH 312 was shot down by anti-aircraft fire during a combat mission over North Vietnam. The pilot Lieutenant R. W. Kuhl successfully ejected and was recovered.
  • July 25, 1967: A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 149961 AH 304 was shot down by small arms fire during a combat mission over North Vietnam. The pilot Lieutenant Commander Donald V. Davis was Killed in Action.
  • August 4, 1967: A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 150052 AH 313 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) during a combat mission over North Vietnam. The pilot Lieutenant Junior Grade Ralph C. Bisz did not survive.
  • August 31, 1967: A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 152058 AH 315 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) during a combat mission over North Vietnam. The pilot Lieutenant Junior Grade David J. Carey successfully ejected and was captured and made Prisoner of War.
  • August 31, 1967: A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 149975 AH 310 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) during a combat mission over North Vietnam. The pilot Lieutenant Commander H. A. Stafford successfully ejected and was captured and made Prisoner of War.
  • September 10, 1967: A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 150047 was lost in an operational accident. The pilot was recovered.
  • October 20, 1967: Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Denny Earl, with both legs shattered by North Vietnamese anti-aircraft fire, successfully lands his A-4 “Skyhawk” attack plane aboard the Oriskany in the Gulf of Tonkin. See the Photo Page.
  • October 22, 1967: A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 150116 AH 306 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) during a combat mission over North Vietnam. The pilot Lieutenant Junior Grade James E. Dooley was Killed in Action.
  • October 24, 1967: A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 149963 AH 311 was shot down by anti-aircraft fire during a combat mission over North Vietnam. The pilot Lieutenant Junior Grade R. A. Foulks successfully ejected and was recovered.
  • October 25, 1967: A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 150086 AH 315 was shot down by anti-aircraft fire during a combat mission over North Vietnam. The pilot Lieutenant J. M. Krommenhoek is Missing in Action.
  • October 26, 1967: A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 149959 AH 300 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) during a combat mission over North Vietnam. The pilot Lieutenant Commander John S. McCain III, successfully ejected and was made Prisoner of War.
  • January 5, 1968: A-4E Skyhawk BuNo. 150131 AH 303 was shot down by anti-aircraft fire during a combat mission over North Vietnam. The pilot Lieutenant Junior Grade R. E. “Skip” Foulks was Killed in Action.

August 4, 1967, LTJG Ralph Bisz manned up VA-163 A-4E BuNo 150052 (Old Salt 313) for a mission into Haiphong against petroleum storage facilities.  The facility was heavily protected by surface-to-air missiles (SA-2 Guidelines).  At this point in the war, the ROE was such that the SAM sites could not be attacked.  Thus protected, they, along with the heavy AAA fire were taking their toll of Navy and USAF aircraft over the North.  Today would be no different.

Approximately a minute and a half from the target area, four surface-to-air missiles (SAM) were observed lifting from the area northeast of Haiphong. The flight maneuvered to avoid the SAMs, however, Bisz’ aircraft was observed as it was hit by a SAM by a wingman. Bisz’ aircraft exploded, burst into flames, and spun downward in a large ball of fire. Remnants of the aircraft were observed falling down in the large ball of fire until reaching an altitude estimated to be 5,000 feet and then appeared to almost completely burn out prior to reaching the ground. No parachute or ejection was observed. No emergency beeper or voice communications were received.

Bisz’ aircraft went down in a heavily populated area in Hai Duong Province,Vietnam. Information from an indigenous source which closely parallels his incident indicated that his remains were recovered from the wreckage and taken to Hanoi for burial. The U.S. Government listed Ralph Bisz as a Prisoner of War with certain knowledge that the Vietnamese know his fate.

Bisz was placed in a casualty status of Captured on August 4, 1967. The Navy now says that the possibility of Bisz ejecting was slim. If he had ejected, his capture would have taken place in a matter of seconds due tothe heavy population concentration in the area and that due to the lack of additional information it is believed that Bisz did not eject from his aircraft and that he was killed on impact of the SAM.

Classified information on Bisz’ case was presented to the Vietnamese by General Vessey in the fall of 1987 in hopes that the Vietnamese would be able to resolve the mystery of Bisz’ fate. His case is one of what are called “discrepancy” cases, which should be readily resolved. The Vietnamese have not been forthcoming with information on Ralph Bisz. (POWnetwork.org)

21 June 2008 (www.arlingtoncemetery.org)

A West Palm Beach woman finally has learned what had long been thought to be fact: The cousin with whom she grew up in Miami was shot down and killed in Vietnam more than 40 years ago. Diana Smith recently heard from the Defense Department’s Prisoner of War/Missing Persons Agency that remains returned to the United States decades ago were those of her cousin, Navy Lieutenant Commander Ralph “Skip” Bisz.  “They were certain that these remains belonged to Skip,” said Smith, at 64 the pilot’s legal next of kin.  Bisz was 25 on August 4, 1967, when he piloted his Skyhawk jet to its target: a petroleum depot near Haiphong. Almost at the depot, he was struck by a surface-to-air missile and crashed near the town of Hai Duong. Observers saw no parachute and no emergency signal was detected.

In 1988, the Vietnamese government returned to the United States remains it said were Bisz’s, based on records of the shootdown and the pilot’s burial. Over several years, joint U.S.-Vietnam teams investigated the incident and surveyed the crash site, determining that the wreckage there was that of a Navy Skyhawk. They also interviewed witnesses to the crash and later burial of the pilot in a nearby cemetery. From 1993 through 2004, DNA from 25 samples of the remains was tested in different laboratories, but results were inconclusive.  In 2007, however, using more sophisticated techniques, the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory positively identified the remains as those of Bisz.  In early May, Smith got a call from the military telling her that Bisz’s bones had been identified.  “I’m sad, but I’m very joyous,” she said. “We didn’t realize the pain was still there, and how this closure is such an amazing thing.” Smith said she and Bisz spent many years together when both their families lived in Miami and Miami Shores. “I never remember a time he wasn’t around,” she said. “He was another brother.”

Bisz was an only child, and both his parents are dead, Smith said.

LCDR Bisz’s remains are in Hawaii at the laboratory of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. They will be escorted to Washington, D.C., for a full military burial at Arlington National Cemetery in October.

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:

Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
Here he lies where he long’d to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
– Robert Louis Stevenson
(‘Requiem’ from Underwoods)

a-4 sunset

By the way, among the naval aviators in VA-163 who became POWs this deployment – one LCDR J.S. McCain.

Airmen Missing In Vietnam War Are Identified: Spectre 13

It is perhaps fitting the day after Memorial Day that we learn of more former MIA’s whose remains have since been identified and returned to their loved ones. Hence, today’s story of some of crew of the AC-130A Spectre named ‘Prometheus’ – callsign Spectre 13… – SJS

Spectre 13

Prometheus (c/s Spectre 13)

The official release:
Airmen MIA From Vietnam War are Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of four 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.

Maj Young SSgt CanifordLtCol Brauner

They are Maj. Barclay B. Young, of Hartford, Conn.; and Senior Master Sgt. James K. Caniford, of Brunswick, Md. The names of the two others are being withheld at the request of their families. All men were U.S. Air Force. Caniford will be buried May 28 in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., and Young’s burial date is being set by his family.

Remains that could not be individually identified are included in a group which will be buried together in Arlington. Among the group remains is Air Force Lt. Col. Henry P. Brauner of Franklin Park, N.J., whose identification tag was recovered at the crash site.

On March 29, 1972, 14 men were aboard an AC-130A Spectre gunship that took off from Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, on an armed reconnaissance mission over southern Laos. The aircraft was struck by an enemy surface-to-air missile and crashed. Search and rescue efforts were stopped after a few days due to heavy enemy activity in the area.

In 1986, joint U.S.- Lao People’s Democratic Republic teams, lead by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), surveyed and excavated the crash site in Savannakhet Province, Laos. The team recovered human remains and other evidence including two identification tags, life support items and aircraft wreckage. From 1986 to 1988, the remains were identified as those of nine men from this crew.

And now the rest of the story:
Continue Reading…

Pilot Missing From the Vietnam War is Identified

(ed. More about the FAC mission in Laos may be found at www.ravens.org. – SJS)

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors. He is Maj. John L. Carroll, U.S. Air Force, of Decatur, Ga. He will be buried on Nov. 13 at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

On Nov. 7, 1972, Carroll was flying a Forward Air Controller mission over Xiangkhoang Province, Laos, when his O-1G Bird Dog aircraft was hit by enemy ground fire and forced to land. Once on the ground, he radioed the Search-and-Rescue (SAR) helicopters on his intent to stay in the aircraft. Two SAR helicopters attempted a recovery, but intense enemy fire forced them to depart the area. A second pickup attempt was made later, but the pilot of that helicopter saw that Carroll had been fatally wounded. The recovery attempt was unsuccessful due to nearby enemy forces that opened fire on the helicopter.


In 1993, a joint U.S./Lao People’s Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R) team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), investigated the incident and surveyed the crash site. During the site survey, the team found small fragments of aircraft wreckage.

Between 1996 and 2007, joint U.S./L.P.D.R./Socialist Republic of Vietnam teams, led by JPAC, conducted several interviews concerning the incident. One witness provided the team with identification media which belonged to Carroll. In another interview, a former People’s Army of North Vietnam officer turned over some of Carroll’s personal effects and told the team that local residents had buried Carroll. Another witness later led a team to the burial site. In 2007, a joint team excavated the burial site and found his remains. Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC also used dental comparisons in the identification of the remains.

But wait, there’s more…

Continue Reading…

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