The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office 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 Lt. Col. Clarence F. Blanton, 46, of El Reno, Okla., will be buried Sept. 15, in
his hometown. In 1968, Blanton and 18 other men were assigned to Lima Site 85, a tactical air
navigation radar site on a remote, 5,600-foot mountain peak known as Phou Pha Thi in Houaphan
Province, Laos. In the early morning of March 11, the site was overrun by Vietnamese
commandos, causing the Americans to seek safety on a narrow ledge of the steep mountain. A
few hours later, under the protective cover of A-1 Skyraider aircraft, U.S. helicopters were able to
rescue eight of the men. Blanton, who was the U.S. commander of the site, and 10 other
Americans were killed in action and unable to be recovered.
In 1994, a joint U.S. /Lao People’s Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) recovery operation,
led by Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), took place near the top of Phou Pha Thi
with negative results. A second recovery operation, in 2003, resulted in the discovery of remains
which were subsequently identified as one of the missing U.S. servicemen—Tech Sgt. Patrick L.
Shannon. Since that time, JPAC has evaluated the feasibility of conducting recoveries on Phou
Pha Thi but logistics and safety concerns precluded further attempts.
From 1994 to 2009, in cooperation with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) and
L.P.D.R., teams pursued multiple leads from dozens of witnesses interviewed, including those
involved with the attack. In 2005, a Laotian citizen provided U.S. officials an identification card
bearing Blanton’s name and human remains purportedly found at the base of Phou Pha Thi.
Scientists from the JPAC and the AFDIL determined the identity of the remains using
circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, such as mitochondrial DNA–which
matched Blanton’s sister.
Today, 1,660 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. Since 1973, 986
servicemen have been accounted for from that conflict, and returned to their families for burial
with military honors. The U.S. government continues to work closely with the governments of
Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to recover Americans lost during the Vietnam War.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing
Americans, call (703) 699-1169 or visit the DPMO Web site at www.dtic.mil/dpmo.