The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today
that the remains of six U.S. servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, were recently
identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
Air Force Col. Joseph Christiano, 43, of Rochester, N.Y.; Col. Derrell B. Jeffords, 40, of
Florence, S.C.; Lt. Col. Dennis L. Eilers, 27, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Chief Master Sgt. William K.
Colwell, 44, Glen Cove, N.Y.; Chief Master Sgt. Arden K. Hassenger, 32, of Lebanon, Ore.; and
Chief Master Sgt. Larry C. Thornton, 33, Idaho Falls, Idaho, will be buried as a group July 9, in a
single casket representing the entire crew, in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
On Dec. 24, 1965, the crew was aboard an AC-47D aircraft nicknamed “Spooky” that failed to
return from a combat strike mission in southern Laos. After a “mayday” signal was sent, all
contact was lost with the crew. Following the crash, two days of search efforts for the aircraft and
crew were unsuccessful.
In 1995, a joint U.S./Lao People’s Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) team investigated a
crash in Savannakhet Province, Laos. Local villagers recalled seeing a two-propeller aircraft,
similar to an AC-47D, crash in December 1965. A local man found aircraft wreckage in a nearby
field while farming, and led the team to that location. The team recovered small pieces of aircraft
wreckage at that time and recommended further investigative visits.
Joint U.S./L.P.D.R. investigation and recovery teams re-visited the site four times from
1999 to 2001. They conducted additional interviews with locals, recovered military equipment,
and began an excavation. No human remains were recovered, so the excavation was suspended
pending additional investigation.
In 2010, joint U.S./L.P.D.R. recovery teams again excavated the crash site. The team
recovered human remains, personal items, and military equipment. Three additional excavations
in 2011 recovered additional human remains and evidence.
Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command used dental records and
circumstantial evidence in the identification of their remains.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing
Americans, visit the DPMO web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1420.