Remains of Vietnam War soldier killed in helicopter crash identified
Stars and Stripes January 10, 2023
An Army helicopter door gunner killed in a 1971 chopper crash during the Vietnam War will be laid to rest in California next month after the Pentagon identified his remains recovered off Vietnam’s coast in 2021, military officials said.
Pfc. Thomas F. Green’s remains were recovered in June 2021 and identified by forensic and DNA evidence in August, according to the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency. The Hawaii-based agency, known as DPAA, is responsible for the Pentagon’s worldwide efforts to locate and identify American troops missing from past conflicts.
The organization’s scientists used “anthropological analysis, as well as material and circumstantial evidence” and “mitochondrial DNA analysis” to identify the 19-year-old’s remains, DPAA said in a Jan. 6 statement.
Green will be buried Feb. 23 in his hometown of Ramona, Calif., according to the statement.
Green was a member of the 68th Aviation Company, 52nd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, serving as a CH-47B Chinook door gunner. He was one of 10 American soldiers killed when their Chinook, which went by the call sign Warrior 143, went down over the South China Sea while flying a supply mission from Tuy Hoa to Cam Ranh Bay, both coastal areas of what was then central South Vietnam. Warrior 143 made it more than halfway to its destination before going down in bad weather near the coast off Nha Trang, according to military records.
During a search-and-rescue operation immediately following the crash, remains of four of the 10 troops killed in the crash were recovered, according to DPAA.
The U.S. military made additional attempts to recover the missing troops in 1974 and several more between 1994 and the successful mission in 2021, which recovered remains of Green and one other missing soldier from Warrior 143.
Like Green, DPAA also recovered Staff Sgt. Sanford I. Finger in 2021 and identified his remains in August, according to the organization.
Four other soldiers in the helicopter crash — Spc. 4 Mickey E. Eveland, Spc. 5 Michael Lautzenheiser, Spc. 5 Robert A. Nickol, and Warrant Officer 1 Albert R. Trudeau — remain missing, according to DPAA.
Green’s name is recorded on the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, alongside others who were or are missing from the Vietnam War. DPAA said a rosette will be placed next to Green’s name to indicate his remains have been identified.
In the DPAA statement, the agency thanked Vietnam’s government for partnering with it to recover missing American service members.