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VO-67
Crew 2 Recovery Photo's
February through March 2001

Contributed by Bob (Dusty) Reynolds vosixtyseven@aol.com
[09NOV2003]
P2 Aircraft
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Aerial View Of Recovery Site
P2 Aircraft
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Phou Louang Mountain Plaque Mounted On Rock Face
P2 Aircraft
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CILHI Recovery Team With MR-2 Tail Section

The following pictures were provided by the US Army CILHI
(Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii)
VO-67 History Thumbnail
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This memorial will be placed on the Laotian mountain side in February 2002 -  Thumbnail
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These are the hats and shirts we had made for the recovery team - Thumbnail
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VO-67 Memorial Article                      VO-67 Memorial Article

"Repatriation"

The Honor Guard stands straight and tall,
the flags wave in the breeze Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, welcome you,
from the mountain across the sea

The Chariot rolls to a stop, the engines cease their roar
The honor ramp starts slowly down, then stops, upon the corridor

Our nations colors cover you, as you're brought down side by side
Across the deck the march is smooth, in perfect step and stride

A single voice is all that's heard, no "Taps" or rifle sound
Repatriation needs no words, the silence is profound

Just God and all his Angels know, if your mortal threads are there
Your memory, "Not Forgotten", is etched upon, this brothers, stare

As I lay my hand upon your flag draped vessel, I feel your spirits soar
Skybound in the wind, you fly, released at last, from countless days of war

Again you smell the sweetness, of your homeland, proud and vast
You're cradled in your loved ones hearts, vivid memories of the past

The journey's been a long one; you served your country well
We've set aside a special place for you, far from the place you fell

You'll rest among our heroes, who paid the highest price
Honored there, on hallowed ground, God Bless your sacrifice

Repatriation of VO-67, Crew 2
Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii
July 10, 2001 by Bob Reynolds

VO-67 Memorial Article


OP-2E Navy Crew Identified from the Vietnam War
Aviators were dropping sensors on Ho Chi Minh Trail
By Ginger Couden CILHI Public Affairs Officer
http://www.cilhi.army.mil/OP2EIdentified.htm


More than 30 years after nine men gave their lives in the Vietnam War their remains will be heading home to a final resting place. The U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, located at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, recently identified the Navy OP-2E crew that went down in 1968.

Lt. j.g. Denis Leon Anderson, U.S. Navy Reserves
Lt. j.g. Denis Leon Anderson
U.S. Navy Reserves

The men will be buried throughout the United States in such hometowns as Amsterdam, N.Y. and Port Clinton, Ohio.

After years of investigations, recovery efforts, and laboratory analysis, CILHI was able to identify:

  • Cmdr. Delbert Austin Olson, U.S. Navy
  • Lt. j.g. Denis Leon Anderson, U.S. Navy Reserves
  • Lt. j.g. Arthur Charles Buck, U.S. Navy Reserves
  • Lt. j.g Philip Paul Stevens, U.S. Navy Reserves
  • Aviation Electrician 2nd Class Richard Michael Mancini, U.S. Navy
  • Aviation Ordnance 2nd Class Michael Land Roberts, U.S. Navy
  • Aviation Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Donald Nellis Thoresen, U.S. Navy
  • Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Kenneth Harry Widon, U.S. Navy
  • Aviation Electricians Technician 3rd Class Gale Robert Siow, U.S. Navy

On Jan. 11, 1968 the OP-2E flown by Olsen and Buck departed Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force base for a mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. On board were seven other crewmembers and one small dog, which was the mascot known as Snoopy. According to the VO-67 official website there were 12 OP-2Es deployed to Southeast Asia, assigned to Observation Squadron 67, VO-67, flying out of Nakhon Phanom AB in Thailand. The squadron was operational from Feb. 15, 1967 until July 1, 1968.

Aviation Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Donald Nellis Thoresen, U.S. Navy
Aviation Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class
Donald Nellis Thoresen U.S. Navy

The OP-2Es would drop small acoustic and seismic sensors along routes. The acoustic sensors would remain in place, inactive, until the noise of a passing truck or tank activated them. Once activated the sensor would transmit a signal to either an airborne relay station or a gunship carrying beacon tracking radar. The information was then relayed to a ground readout facility where it was analyzed and a possible attack ordered for that area.

Aviation Electrician 2nd Class Richard Michael Mancini, U.S. Navy
Aviation Electrician 2nd Class
Richard Michael Mancini, U.S. Navy

During Olsen and Buck’s last radio contact, the crew reported they were descending through dense clouds. Two other OP-2Es were working the trail that morning along side Olsen’s aircraft. The other aircraft tried to re-establish radio contact with the crew after their last report but were unsuccessful.There was a search of the area after the aircraft failed to return to friendly lines, but there was no trace of the aircraft or crew. All nine crewmen were listed as missing in action.

On Jan. 25, 1968, an Air Force aircraft photographed a suspected crash that later was correlated to this case. Due to the hostile environment in the crash site area, it was decided not to risk the lives of those on an investigation and recovery team. Subsequently, a military review board amended the status of the nine crewmen to killed in action.


Cmdr. Delbert Austin Olson U.S. Navy
Cmdr. Delbert Austin Olson
U.S. Navy

The Investigations

Aviation Ordnance 2nd Class Michael Land Roberts
Aviation Ordnance 2nd Class
Michael Land Roberts, U.S. Navy

In May 1993, a joint U.S./Lao People’s Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) team traveled to Khammouan Province, Laos to investigate the crash site. The team examined some military items consistent with those carried by a U.S. Navy OP-2E in a local village, but was unable to correlate them to a specific site or incident.

In December 1994, another investigative team traveled to the same province to investigate. The team found no evidence relating to the crash. In January 1995, a third team investigated the crash site believed to be associated with the unaccounted-for crew, again with negative results.

The fourth investigative team that deployed in April of 1996, did find the crash site believed to be associated with Olsen and Buck’s aircraft in Khammouan Province. The team surveyed the wreckage which was scattered on two ledges on the side of Phou Louang Mountain. They were able to recover some human remains and material evidence, including two identification tags and an identification card that were visible on the surface.

Photo by Sgt. Stacey Lanning, U.S.M.C.
Team members sift soil through 1/4 inch
wire mesh at the recovery site

The Recoveries

Photo by Sgt. Stacey Lanning, U.S.M.C.
Team members excavate the crash
site in March 2002.

Initially, because of the arduous location it was determined the crash site was too dangerous for a recovery team to excavate. In addition, the site had a narrow weather window. If a team were to safely access the site, it would have to be during the February to April timeframe because of weather conditions.

It wasn’t until March of 2001 that CILHI was able to safely send in a recovery team. The crash site was located on the side of a cliff at an elevation of approximately 4,400 feet. The upper portion of the site consisted of three defined ledges projecting from the cliff. Team members had to rappel from the top of the mountain to the site. A helicopter sling-loading supplies from Boualapha Town to the mountain was the only way equipment could reach the team. The team excavated the site from March 15 to April 6, 2001. During the recovery the team found additional human remains as well as identification media for three individuals.

A CILHI team member rapells
to crash site.

It wasn’t until a year later that Mother Nature allowed another CILHI search and recovery team to excavate the crash site. A 12-member CILHI team returned to the crash site from Feb. 7 to March 17, 2002.

Photo by Sgt. Stacey Lanning
U.S.M.C.

A helicopter slingloads
equimpment into the area
for the team members.

The recovery team consisted of a team leader, team sergeant, forensic anthropologist, explosive ordnance disposal technician, a medic, forensic photographer, linguist, life support technician, two mountaineering specialists and two mortuary affairs specialists. Again the team rappelled down to the crash site from the top of the mountain and set up a base camp where they stayed for the duration of the mission. Their supplies were airlifted in. Standard and specialized archaeological procedures were used in the excavation of the crash site. The explosive ordnance disposal technician conducted a surface and subsurface ordnance detection sweep, determining the areas traversed and excavated to be safe from unexploded ordnance. The team found additional human remains as well as identification media for another individual. The team extended their stay to complete the excavation and closed the site recovering all human remains and material evidence.

The Identification

Aviation Electricians Technician 3rd Class Gale Robert Siow
Aviation Electricians Technician 3rd Class
Gale Robert Siow, U.S. Navy

Analysts confirmed that the wreckage found at the excavated site in Khammouan Province was that of the Navy OP-2 that went down on Jan. 11, 1968. The grid coordinates corresponded to the approximate last known location and material evidence found at the crash site correlated to the crewmembers.

Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Kenneth Harry Widon, U.S. Navy
Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class
Kenneth Harry Widon, U.S. Navy


The Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory out of Rockville, Md. reported that 28 of the 36 bone and tooth samples submitted by CILHI yielded usable mitochondrial DNA sequence data. There were nine different mtDNA sequences that could be identified and matched to family reference samples obtained for the nine men on board the aircraft.

Lt. j.g Philip Paul Stevens, U.S. Navy Reserves
Lt. j.g Philip Paul Stevens
U.S. Navy Reserves

The CILHI forensic dentists determined the dental remains belonged to some of the nine men manifested on the aircraft.




OP-2E Crew Mascot Snoopy
The OP-2E Crew Mascot Snoopy,
sits at attention

The skeletal remains recovered from the crash site were individually identified as those of the nine crewmembers based on dental analysis, mtDNA analysis, and morphological comparisons. However, a number of bone fragments could not be individually attributed.

Three fragments of bone were attributed to a small-to-medium-sized domestic dog, which it was determined to be the crew’s mascot, Snoopy.

Based on mtDNA testing, odontological and anthropological analyses, the remains that could be associated with the crew were designated as individual identifications. The known dog remains were segregated.

Final Resting Place

In May of 2003, Mancini’s remains were escorted by his son to Betz, Ross, & Bellinger Funeral Home, 171 Guy Park, Amsterdam, N.Y. Buck’s remains were escorted by the military to Gerner-Wolf-Brossia Marsh Funeral Home, 216 Washington St., Port Clinton, Ohio. The other crewmembers interments are being scheduled on various dates and locations.

On June 18, 9 a.m., at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington Va., there will be a group burial of the crew’s additional remains that could not be individually associated given their size, condition, and the limits of forensic science.

There was an interment and services held for Stevens on June 3, 2003 at East Dalton Oakhill Cemetery, Dalton, Mich.

VO-67 Memorial Article
"Airman Snoopy Seagrams"

Time to rest you faithful pooch, your duties call complete
Courage bound to guard your crew through monsoon rain and heat
With a fearsome growl and hair stood up, you are a noble hound
Trembled lips curled back and fangs exposed, fierce canine stood his ground

Do not tread upon my master's place, this sacred mountain mound
For I stand here devoid of fear on a foreign battleground
No medals will be my just reward for service to those I love
I only wish to join them in the boundless fields above

We will not forget you as we know your heart was strong
You were not scared and wagged your tail and barked to go along
And on that day when the Neptune fell and heroes were called home
You took your place on Phou Louang's ridge and your sprit never roamed

Through twelve thousand days and nights your noble calling kept
Upon their souls our countries honor placed, as the angels wept
At last you fearless hound you are relieved, to romp the boundless fields
You stood the test as mans best friend you did not bend or yield

Crew-2 Mascot
KIA -Laos 1-11-1968
Remains recovered with his crew 2003
In memory
CAVE CANEM

Bob Reynolds © 2005

          
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