Vietnam MIAs Accounted for and Returned to their Hometowns

A Huey similar to the one shot down over Cambodia
A Huey similar to the one shot down over Cambodia

A Huey similar to the one shot down over Cambodia
A Huey similar to the one shot down over Cambodia

It’s been 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War, but there are still over 1,500 men who served there whose bodies remain unaccounted for.

The Department of Defense has confirmed that remains of three servicemen missing since the Vietnam War have finally been recovered and are being brought home to the United States to be buried with full military honors.

The three men; Army Maj. Dale W. Richardson, Staff Sgt. Bunyan D. Price Jr, and Sgt. Rodney L. Griffin were all members of the same group, the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. They were flying aboard a Huey Helicopter that was making its way to the Fire Support Base in Katum, South Vietnam. As a result of unexpected bad weather, the helicopter was forced to deviate from its course and make an unplanned detour into Cambodian airspace.

As soon as they entered the enemy’s airspace they were targeted by heavy and sustained ground fire. The pilot had no choice but to make an emergency landing in Kampong Cham Province, Cambodia. No one was injured in the descent or landing, but 4 of the 5 crew were captured, and Richardson, Price, and Griffin were immediately killed in a showdown with Cambodian forces.

Their bodies were never recovered from the site. For 16 years, the United States and Kingdom of Cambodia co-operated on a task-force that examined the site in search of the remains of the missing servicemen, but to no avail.

In 2009 the task-force began to interview locals of the Memot District of Cambodia, who purportedly had information of the whereabouts of the remains. Upon the suggestion of the locals, the team began exploring a possible burial location, but were ultimately unable to locate the remains of the servicemen, the reports.

Several years later, in February of 2012, a new task-force decided to re-question two of the local witnesses. The locals proposed an alternate burial site close to the area which had already been thoroughly explored. This time the search was successful, and the team happened upon a grave containing several human remains and military gear.

To identify the remains, scientists working for the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) utilized forensic identification tools to analyze the mitochondrial DNA from the remains and match it to that of members of the servicemen’s families.

Finally, after decades of searching, the remains of the three men and the crew of the helicopter were brought back to their hometowns in the United States, to be given proper burials with full military honors.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE