Veterans

October 26, 2012

Remains of two airmen lost in 1969 identified, honored

vietnam1
Air Force photograph by MSgt. Cecilio Ricardo Air Force Honor Guard members carry the remains of Col. Wendell Keller, of Fargo, N.D., and Capt.Virgil K. Meroney, of Fayetteville, Ark., at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Oct. 18, 2012. Family members were present at the arrival. March 1, 1969, Keller and Meroney were the crew of an F-4D Phantom II aircraft that went down while carrying out a night time strike mission in Khammouan province, Laos.

The remains of two airmen who died when their F-4D Phantom II was shot over Laos in 1969 were returned and honored at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors Oct. 19.

Col. Wendell Keller, of Fargo, N.D., and Capt. Virgil K. Meroney III, of Fayetteville, Ark., were killed when their aircraft was hit by enemy fire March 1, 1969, and went down while carrying out a nighttime strike mission in the Khammouan province, Laos.

Their remains were buried in a single casket representing the crew.

Michael Keller, son of Wendell, recounted his father’s story during an interview with Inforum.com.

He described how Keller and his copilot, Meroney, prowled the night sky above Laos in their F-4D Phantom jet, on the lookout for North Vietnamese forces stealthily making their way along the Ho Chi Minh Trail far below when muzzle flashes revealed the location of anti-aircraft guns.

Although nearly out of ammunition after sustained strikes on enemy positions, Keller spent his last moments protecting his wingman.

While radioing his intentions to a spotter plane that helped direct his attacks, Keller pointed his plane into a dive and sent his final volley of rockets at the enemy.

Members of Keller’s squad in the spotter plane watched enemy tracer bullets stream skyward from the ground.

They reported seeing small blooms of fire erupt on the ground as Keller’s rockets hit their mark.

Then, moments later, the flashes were dwarfed by a much larger explosion nearby when Keller’s aircraft hit the ground.

Michael Keller, who was 4 years old in 1969, knows the story well, having collected declassified data on the mission and accounts of the incident published in military magazines.

“I pretty much knew he had been killed in action, and I just thought that, after all these years, they’d never find anything,” Keller said.

But in 2010, more than 40 years after his father’s plane went down, a search team traveled to Laos to take a closer look at a spot that had been identified many years before as a crash site.

From 1994 to 2011, joint U.S.-Lao People’s Democratic Republic teams, led by Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, conducted several investigations and excavations of the crash site in Khammouan province. The teams located human remains, military equipment, a military identification card and the wreckage of an F-4, including an engine data plate and radio call-sign plate. During the 17 years of investigations, analysts evaluated the material evidence and the accounts of more than 40 eyewitnesses to confirm the information correlated with the crew’s lost location.

To identify the remains, scientists from JPAC used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including dental comparisons and radiograph comparisons.

Today, 1,655 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. The U.S. government continues to work closely with the governments of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to recover Americans lost during the Vietnam War.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1169.

Editor’s note: Much of this story was reprinted with permission from Dave Olson, Inforum.com journalist.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines September 19, 2014

News: McKeon on broader military authorization: Anything can ‘fail or pass’ - Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said if Congress returns after the midterm elections to weigh a broader military authorization for the battle against Islamic State, it might not pass. Defense contractor gets 7 years for giving secrets...
 
 

News Briefs September 19, 2014

U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan at 2,203 As of Sept. 16, 2014, at least 2,203 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,823 military service members have died in Afghanistan as a result...
 
 

Pratt & Whitney, U.S. Air Force complete qualification for F135 engine testing

Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies Corp. , together with its U.S. Air Force partner at the F135 Heavy Maintenance Center at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., celebrated another significant milestone qualification for F135 engine testing at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex. OC-ALC which in addition to engine testing is also qualified to perform...
 

 
Navy photograph

Triton has first cross-country flight from Palmdale

Northrop Grumman photograph The MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System takes off from Northrop Grummanís Palmdale, Calif., facility Sept. 17 for its first cross-country flight to Naval Air Station Patuxent, River, Md. PALMDALE,...
 
 
Air Force photograph by Michael J. Pausic

Future of NATO: Adapting to a new security environment

Air Force photograph by Michael J. Pausic Gen. Phillip Breedlove informs the assembled crowd about the results of the recent NATO Summit and the areas of instability that affect Europe that have regional implications. Seated in...
 
 
Air Force photograph by Scott M. Ash

AFRL commander describes Air Force’s technology vision

Air Force photograph by Scott M. Ash Maj. Gen. Thomas Masiello takes a question from an audience member after discussing Air Force Research Laboratory breakthrough technologies during the 2014 Air Force Association’s Air ...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>