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.


 
 

 

Remains of Pearl Harbor victims raised for identification

The military July 27 exhumed more caskets containing the unidentified remains of USS Oklahoma crew members killed in the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency disinterred five coffins from four grave sites at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, where they have rested for decades. The work is...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Whitney Stanfield

POW visits Pentagon tribute section, reminisces about hard times

Air Force photograph by SSgt. Whitney Stanfield Retired Col. Leon Ellis visits the Air Force prisoner of war tribute section in the Pentagon July 16, 2015. Ellis, a Vietnam War POW, admired a painting by Maxine McCaffrey. The p...
 
 
Air Force photo by Gina Randall

Optimism helped Vietnam vet survive as POW

Air Force photo by Gina Randall Retired Maj. Spike Nasmyth, speaks with airmen during a lunch July 8, 2015, at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England. Nasmyth spoke about how prisoners of war communicated with one another in the c...
 

 
Air Force photograph by Scott M. Ash

WWII Veteran, POW receives Presidential Unit Citation

Air Force photograph by Scott M. Ash Sen. John McCain and Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry O. Spencer congratulate 2nd Lt. John Pedevillano, a WWII Army Air Corps B-17 bombardier, during a ceremony in his honor, in Wash...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Carlin Leslie

AF Vietnam veterans honored on Capitol Hill

Air Force photograph by SSgt. Carlin Leslie Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry O. Spencer, retired Air Force Col. Michael Brazelton, retired Air Force Col. William Driggers Jr., and the executive assistant to the chief ma...
 
 

Soldier missing from Korean War accounted for

The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced July 1 that the remains of a serviceman, missing from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors. Army Sgt. Joseph M. Snock Jr. of Apollo, Pennsylvania, was buried July 6, in Arlington National Cemetery. In...
 




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=""> <s> <strike> <strong>