The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Richard L. Whitesides, 27, of Stockton, Calif., will be buried May 1, at West Point, N.Y. On March 26, 1964, Whitesides was assigned to the 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron, 34th Tactical Group, 13th Air Force, as the pilot of an O-1F “Bird Dog” aircraft that crashed while conducting a reconnaissance mission over Quang Tri Province, Vietnam. Whitesides was never seen again
On July 29, 1999, a joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S. R.V.) team traveled to Quang Tri Province to investigate the loss. The team interviewed several local residents who described an aircraft that crashed during February or March 1964. Based upon information received from the locals, the team surveyed the purported crash site, and found aircraft wreckage consistent with that of an O-1F aircraft.
Between August 2013 and June 2014, two joint U.S./S.R.V. teams excavated the site recovering human remains and aircraft wreckage consistence with Whitesides’ aircraft.
In the identification of Whitesides, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including mitochondrial DNA, which matched Whitesides’ mother.
We appreciate the cooperation we receive from the government and people of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam in our continuing efforts to achieve the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel from the Vietnam War. The success in this case and those before it would not be possible without their support and assistance, and we look forward to expanding progress.
Today there are 1,627 American service members 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 or call (703) 699-1420.