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Four U.S. Navy sailors reported missing during the Vietnam War will be buried together Thursday in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

Lt. Dennis Peterson of Huntington Park, Calif.; Ensign Donald Frye of Los Angeles; and Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Technicians William Jackson of Stockdale, Texas, and Donald McGrane of Waverly, Iowa, went missing on July 19, 1967,after their SH-3A Sea King helicopter was shot down over North Vietnam’s Ha Nam Province, a Defense Department statement said Tuesday.

The four sailors launched from the USS Hornet and were trying to locate a downed pilot when they took anti-aircraft fire from a concealed 37mm gun position, lost control, caught fire and crashed, the statement said. All four died in the crash.

In 1982, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam handed over five boxes of remains to U.S. officials, the statement said. Nearly 27 years later, those remains were identified as Frye, Jackson and McGrane.

A joint U.S. and Socialist Republic of Vietnam team investigated a loss in Ha Nam Province in 1993, the statement said. The team interviewed locals who identified potential burial sites. One local claimed to have buried two crewmen near the wreckage, but said both graves had been exhumed.

Over the next seven years, three subsequent joint teams excavated the site and recovered human remains and aircraft wreckage that correlated to the crew’s chopper, the statement said. In 2000, U.S. personnel excavated the crash site and recovered additional remains that the Joint POW/MIA Command Central Identification Laboratory determined came from all four crewmen, including Peterson, the pilot.

Defense Department scientists used forensic tools and circumstantial evidence to identify the remains, the statement said. Peterson was accounted for on March 30, 2012.

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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.
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