The remains of a U.S. service member who went missing in a plane crash on the south-central coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War in 1969 have been identified, the U.S. Department of Defense announced on Monday. His remains have been returned to his family.
U.S. Army Captain Charles R. Barnes and four other service members departed an airfield in Qui Nhon on March 16, 1969, en-route for Da Nang and Phu Bai. When their aircraft, a Beechcraft King Air U-21A Ute, approached Da Nang, they encountered low clouds and poor visibility before contact was lost.
After the aircraft failed to land as scheduled, a search-and-rescue operation was launched but eventually called off due to hazardous weather conditions. The cause of the crash was never determined. Barnes, who was from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the four other men were listed as missing in action.
More than two decades later, in 1993, a joint U.S.-Vietnamese team conducted investigations in the provinces of Thua Thien-Hue and Quảng Nam-Đà Nẵng. "They interviewed a local Vietnamese citizen who supplied remains and an identification tag bearing Barnes' name, which he claimed to have recovered from an aircraft crash site," the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement on Monday.
In 1999, a second joint U.S.-Vietnamese team interviewed additional local citizens about the crash and they were led to the crash site. A year later, a joint U.S.-Vietnamese team excavated the site and recovered human remains and material evidence.
Using circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools such as mitochondrial DNA -- which matched that of Barnes' sister -- scientists from America's Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory were able to identify the remains of Barnes.
Barnes will be buried on Wednesday at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia with full military honors.
Since late 1973, the remains of more than 930 Americans killed in the Vietnam War have been accounted-for and returned to their families. With the accounting of Bernes, 1,671 Americans remain missing from the conflict, which ended in April 1975 and left more than 315,000 people killed.