Two U.S. airmen reported missing in Laos during the Vietnam War have been identified and will be buried in a single casket Friday in Arlington National Cemetery.
Air Force Col. Wendell Keller of Fargo, N.D., and Capt. Virgil Meroney III of Fayetteville, Ark., were shot down in their F-4D Phantom II aircraft during a nighttime mission over Khammouan Province on March 1, 1969, a Defense Department news release said Tuesday.
Nearby aircrews did not see parachutes after the aircraft was hit, and recovery efforts were prevented by a heavy enemy presence in the area.
Between 1994 and 2011, joint teams from the U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and Lao People’s Democratic Republic conducted several investigations and excavations of the crash site, the news release said. They located human remains, military equipment, a military identification card, and aircraft wreckage of an F-4, including an engine data plate and radio call-sign plate.
Forensic identification tools such as dental and radiograph comparisons, along with circumstantial evidence, were used to identify the remains of Keller and Meroney, the release said.
A separate partial set of Meroney’s remains was interred in his hometown on June 9.
There are currently 1,655 Americans who remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, the release said.