Tuesday, July 10, 2001

‘Copters’ will be
used in future
MIA operations

The current operation had
been scaled back following a
crash in Vietnam in April

By Gregg K. Kakesako

The U.S.-Vietnamese task force undertaking recovery efforts in Vietnam for missing in action servicemen was forced to scale back its operations because of the April helicopter crash that killed 16 searchers.

Navy Petty Officer Tim Paynter, Joint Task Force-Full Accounting spokesman at Camp Smith, said JTF-FA only received authorization from the Pacific Command yesterday to resume the use of helicopters.

The Pacific Command suspended the use of Vietnamese helicopters since the April 7 crash.

"This latest operation had to be scaled back to ensure that it was easily accessible by land," Paynter said.

During the latest recovery operations, which began Monday and will run through Aug. 5, about 90 JTF-FA teams will be working at four sites -- two near Ho Chi Minh City and two others near Hanoi and seven off the coast of the central part of Vietnam.

Navy divers will be employed during this 66th recovery effort.

Meanwhile, 12 sets of remains of MIAs from the Vietnam and Korean Wars arrived at Hickam Air Force Base and were honored by a joint service color guard today as they were taken from a C-17 jet transport and taken to the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory where the forensic identification process will be done.

Eight sets of remains are from the Vietnam and four are from the Korean War.

Although the investigation into the April 7 helicopter crash is not completed, weather is believed to have been the primary cause of the crash which killed 16 men -- part of an advance team preparing to excavate six sites where U.S. planes crashed. Seven Americans and nine Vietnamese recovery specialists died when the Russian-made MI-17 helicopter they were riding in smashed into a mountain in central Quang Binh province.

Helicopters must be used to reach many remote search sites. Virtually all the Hanoi-based members of the task force killed in the crash have now been replaced. Killed was the outgoing commander of the Hanoi team, Army Lt. Col. Rennie Cory Jr. of Fayetteville, N. C., and his replacement, Lt. Col. George D. "Marty" Martin III of Hopkins, S. C.

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