The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Air Force Col. William E. Campbell, 37, of McAllen, Texas, will be buried May 18 in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. On Jan. 29, 1969, Campbell was a member of the 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron as an aircraft commander in a flight of two F-4Ds on an armed reconnaissance mission over southern Laos. Campbell was cleared to engage a target, and his ordnance was seen impacting the ground. Haze in the area made for difficult visibility but immediately thereafter, aircrews saw a large fireball on the ground in the vicinity of the target. The crewmember on another U.S. aircraft radioed the missing aircraft but received no reply, and no parachutes were seen. Efforts to make contact with Campbell continued until the remaining planes were forced to leave the area due to low fuel. Campbell was subsequently declared missing in action.
Between 1994 and 2011, the Department of Defense conducted nine investigations and excavated a site in both Vietnam and Laos in its attempts to resolve this case. In 2014, residents of Boualapha District, Khammouan Province, in Laos turned over possible human remains and material evidence reportedly recovered from crash sites in the vicinity of Ban Phanop Village, the area where Campbell’s aircraft was lost.
To identify Campbell’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, which matched a maternal cousin, as well as dental analysis, which matched his records, and circumstantial evidence.
The support from the governments of Laos and Vietnam were vital to the success of this identification.
Today there are 1,611 American servicemen and civilians that are still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or call (703) 699-1420.