This undated photo shows the dog remembered as either Snoopy or Seagram, whose remains were recovered from a 1968 crash site in Laos along with those of nine aviators.

Bones of military mascot
present a burial dilemma

The dog died with nine crewmen
on a Vietnam War airplane

The 10 crew members lay together on a steep Laos mountainside for more than three decades, but one member of the doomed Navy air unit was denied the same final resting place as the rest.

The reason is simple, say officials at Arlington National Cemetery: It was a dog.

The remains of the little mascot for the Observation Squadron 67 unit were carefully separated from the bones of nine men by the Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Honolulu.

The bull terrier, remembered as either Snoopy or Seagram, was aboard the OP-2E observation aircraft on Jan. 11, 1968, on a secret mission to drop eavesdropping devices along the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War. The plane went down, all nine men died and so did the dog, which some now call Snoopy Seagram.

"He was part of the crew. He was with the men on the plane," said David Olson, 43, of Kansas City, Mo., who was 7 when his father, Cmdr. Delbert Olson, died in the crash. "I think they should have all been left together."

Arlington, which regularly refuses burial of civilians, disagreed.

"We just don't bury animals at the cemetery," said Kerry Sullivan, a spokeswoman at the 612-acre site across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

Two weeks after the crash -- which still has not been designated either an accident or the result of enemy fire -- military aircraft spotted the OP-2E wreckage and the bodies of the crew, including the small dog. But the area was deemed too dangerous for a landing, and the recovery was put off for a quarter-century.

The military took up the task again in 1993 but sent investigation and recovery teams six times before all the bones were gathered 4,400 feet up Phou Louang Mountain. It was not until a year ago that the Hawaii laboratory finally had the last remains in its Hickam Air Force Base facility for identification.

Eventually, identifiable remnants of the nine servicemen were separated and ready for burial, along with a 10th set, which included a few of Snoopy's broken bones as well as unidentifiable bone fragments from the men.

Families of the men called for Snoopy to be included with the unidentified human remains in a common grave on Arlington's southern side, near the Pentagon. The identified remains are buried in individual graves.

"I know Snoopy must have brought lots of joy to all the men," said Sue Jenkins, 61, the first wife of Lt. j.g. Denis Anderson, who died in the plane crash. "I think it was really special that they found his remains as well."

The families toyed with the idea of burying the dog in a pet cemetery but ultimately decided to allow Jenkins to take the remains home to San Marcos, Texas. She passed one piece of bone on to a son of Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Siow, also on the fatal mission.

Jenkins keeps her three bone fragments from the dog in an Altoids tin in her purse.

"I have to be careful when I reach for my Altoids," said Jenkins, who proudly opens the tin during conversation, revealing a picture of Snoopy Seagram and the three small bone fragments.

The dog was one of at least two at the Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force base, according to Bob Reynolds, a member of the VO-67 flight crew and president of the VO-67 Association. Snoopy Seagram had only been on base about three months before his death.


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --