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Mar-17-2010 03:38printcomments

Air Force Major Lost Over Laos During Vietnam War is Identified

Two men from the plane already recovered and returned home after 36 years are Major Barclay B. Young, of Hartford, Connecticut and Senior Master Sergeant James K. Caniford, of Brunswick, Maryland.

tribute to Curtis Daniel Miller
From a tribute page to Curtis Daniel Miller who was aboard the Air Force AC-130A Spectre gunship that was shot down over Laos in 1972. Courtesy:

(SALEM, Ore.) - U.S. officials say the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War from a C-130 crash in 1972, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

There are two sides to every story and often good people on opposing sides of an issue, but the story of this aircraft and crew will always be viewed with questions that relate to whether or not some of these men could have ended up as POW's, living many years after the crash.

Staff Sgt. Merlyn Paulson:

Two men from the plane already recovered and returned home after 36 years are Major Barclay B. Young, of Hartford, Connecticut and Senior Master Sergeant James K. Caniford, of Brunswick, Maryland.

In our May 2008 story on the return of Young and Caniford, we reported that the other men aboard the plane when it crashed in addition to Curtis D. Miller, were Howard Stephenson, Robert Simmons, Edwin Pearce, Edward Smith, Richard Halpin, Irving Ramsower, Richard Castillo, Charles Wanzel, Merlyn Paulson, William Todd and Robert E. Simmons.

According to government reports, the 14 men were aboard the AC-130A Spectre gunship that took off from Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, on March 29th, 1972 on an armed reconnaissance mission over southern Laos.

The aircraft was struck by an enemy surface-to-air missile and crashed.

According to the POW Network, the aircraft crashed in the jungle foothills 56 miles east of Savannakhet in southern Laos. It was shot down by a Russian Surface to Air Missile, otherwise known as a SAM.

From a tribute page to Curtis Daniel Miller who was aboard the
Air Force AC-130A Spectre gunship that was shot down over Laos
in 1972. Courtesy:

Military documents indicate that search and rescue efforts were stopped after a few days due to heavy enemy activity in the area.

According to the POW Network, "U.S. government sources stated in February 1986 that a fighter escort plane saw the C-130 crash in a fireball, no parachutes were seen, nor was radio contact made with the AC130 or any of its crew.

The DoD says Air Force Major Curtis Daniel Miller of Palacios, Texas, will be buried on March 29 in the Dallas-Ft. Worth National Cemetery. Miller was part of a 14-man aircrew, all of which are now reported to be accounted-for.

CU.S. Air Force Major Henry Brauner

In the same paragraph the DoD states, "Remains that could not be individually identified are included in a group that will be buried together in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia."

So it is unclear to me at this moment whether or not they actually made a positive ID on all 14.

In 1986, joint U.S.-Lao People's Democratic Republic teams, lead by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), surveyed and excavated the crash site in Savannakhet Province, Laos.

This team recovered human remains and other evidence including two identification tags, life support items and aircraft wreckage.

From 1986 to 1988, the remains were identified as those of nine men from this crew.

Between 2005 and 2006, joint teams resurveyed the crash site and excavated it twice. The teams found more human remains, personal effects and crew-related equipment.

As a result, JPAC identified the other crewmen using forensic identification tools, circumstantial evidence, mitochondrial DNA and dental comparisons.

Here is our report on the last recovery of members of this American aircrew: May-27-2008: Remains of C-130 Crew Missing From Vietnam War Recovered - Tim King

Here is the tribute page on Major Miller:
Curtis Daniel Miller The Virtual Wall

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Pim August 14, 2012 7:58 am (Pacific time)

Even in The Netherlands, we still read about it and care.

We Still Care October 15, 2011 11:53 am (Pacific time)

I, too, have a bracelet for MAJ. Richard Castillo, passed down to me from my mother. We still care and GOD BLESS ALL OUR SOLDIERS!!

Editor: thank you for sharing that!

Lynn Marlow September 28, 2011 6:44 pm (Pacific time)

I still have the POW bracelet that reads Maj. Richard Castillo, 3-29-72. I wish the outcome had been different.

Editor: We are touched by your comment and have a similar story or two about those bracelets, thank you so much.

Daniel Johnson March 30, 2010 5:38 pm (Pacific time)

These men who died, and thousands of others, should be honoured, but it's an ironic honour. They should not have been there putting their lives at risk in the first place. They should have been at home, marrying their high school sweethearts, raising children and, about now, retiring from a lifetime of working.

The U.S. was in southeast Asia as a result of national paranoia. It was widely believed (even though responsible people at the time knew it was a fantasy) that the Domino Theory was real--that if Vietnam fell to the communists, it would be followed by Cambodia, then Thailand, etc. Well, Vietnam fell and those things did not happen. To throw salt in the national wound, Vietnam is now a normalized trading partner of the U.S. And today, history is repeating itself. The U.S. has hundreds of thousand of troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. To what end? The American people seem congenitally unable to learn from history. It seems that what Voltaire said was true: Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Jackie March 30, 2010 5:07 pm (Pacific time)

Thank you for your bravery, courage and dedication to our Country and freedom. Rest In Peace and Honor. Welcome Home!

Emily March 19, 2010 4:16 pm (Pacific time)

I'm so sorry for all the years y'all have gone through, not knowing about your son. I can't imagine the pain you have had to bear. Just as I have written new parent who have lost their loved ones in this war, I am writing you because you lost a son, a hero, in the Vietnam War. Thank you for your sacrifice! He, indeed, is a hero! God bless you from a fellow Texan!

G 2/3; March 17, 2010 6:38 pm (Pacific time)

Major Young.,M/Sgt. Caniford,welcome home, you were not forgotten.

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