Air Force Buries Crew That Went Missing In 1965

Six airmen who went missing over Laos in 1965 have finally been put to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday.

The Huffington Post reports that their charred remains were not identified through DNA matches but through dental records, personal items, and other circumstantial evidence. On Monday, they were buried in a single casket and all given full military honors, which is common in situations where remains cannot be linked conclusively to a specific individual.

According to The Huffington Post, these six Air Force servicemen are:

“Col. Joseph Christiano of Rochester, N.Y.; Col. Derrell B. Jeffords of Florence, S.C.; Lt. Col. Dennis L. Eilers of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Chief Master Sgt. William K. Colwell of Glen Cove, N.Y.; Chief Master Sgt. Arden K. Hassenger of Lebanon, Ore.; and Chief Master Sgt. Larry C. Thornton of Idaho Falls, Idaho.”

The State reports that the six men took off on Christmas Eve aboard an AC-47D aircraft, which was named “Spooky.” The crew sent a “mayday” signal, and failed to return from their combat strike mission in southern Laos. After the crash, days of search efforts for the aircraft and missing men turned up nothing.


Beginning in 1995, however, a villager led recovery teams to a potential crash site in Laos. It wasn’t until 2010 and 2011 that human remains were finally discovered, allowing the missing crew to be identified.

The Huffington Post reports that Jeffrey Christiano of Rochester, N.Y. was only 2 when his father went missing, and stated that Monday’s burial has helped to bring his father home and resolve “this nagging, disjointed feeling that he’s not where he belongs.”

He also said that is has been a struggle to understand his emotions after learning that his father’s remains had been found, and that he would be buried at Arlington. He stated that, “Most people learn about their father by experiencing them. I had to consciously make the effort to put the picture of my father together myself.” Now that the search for his father is over, however, he stated, “today’s the day he dies, for me.”