Remains of nine sailors who perished after their OP-2E Neptune patrol plane crashed in the jungles of Laos in 1968 have been identified in Hawaii.

Officials with Joint Task Force-Full Accounting in Hawaii said identification of the entire crew brings the number of Americans missing or unaccounted for from the Southeast Asia conflict to 1,891.

The Neptune crew belonged to VO-67, a secret observation squadron based at Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, during the Vietnam War. It was flying a mission peppering the jungle floor with sensors capable of detecting enemy troop movement and conversations.

North Vietnamese soldiers were using portions of the Ho Chi Minh trail that hooked into Laos to move war supplies south into South Vietnam during the conflict.

The Neptune crashed on the north side of a cloud-shrouded sheer cliff 150 feet below the 4,583-foot summit of Phou Louang mountain in eastern Laos.

The crash site was first located — and excavations began — in March 1996, by teams assigned to the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting.

Because of the crash site’s location on the mountain, it was labeled one of the most difficult sites in the history of Task Force recovery operations, a news release from the Task Force headquarters said.

After recovering numerous bones, teeth and personal effects belonging to the Neptune crew, the site was placed off-limits due to safety considerations.

The site was re-evaluated in December 2000, and additional recovery work proceeded in March 2001 and was completed in February 2002.

The Army’s Central Identification Laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, completed the identification process. Identities of the aviators were not released.

However, according to the VO-67 Web site, crewmembers included: Lt. j.g. Denis Anderson, Cdr. Delbert A. Olson, Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Mancini, Lt. j.g. Arthur C. Buck, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Roberts, Petty Officer 3rd Class Gale Siow, Lt. j.g. Phillip Stevens, Petty Officer 2nd Class Donald Thoresen and Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenneth Widon.

There are 1,891 Americans still listed as missing or unaccounted for from the war in Southeast Asia, including 1,444 in Vietnam, 382 in Laos, 57 in Cambodia and eight in territorial waters of China, according to Joint Task Force officials.

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