Press Release | Aug. 14, 2007

Air Force Pilot Missing From Vietnam War Is Identified (Rockett)

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

He is Lt. Col. Alton C. Rockett, Jr., U.S. Air Force, of Birmingham, Ala. He will be buried Monday in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

On June 2, 1967, Rockett and his co-pilot, Capt. Daniel L. Carrier, crewed the number two aircraft in a flight of two F-4Cs flying an armed reconnaissance mission over Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam. During their bomb run, anti-aircraft ground fire was observed, but Rockett reported that his aircraft was not hit. When the lead aircraft completed its bomb run, the flight leader told Rockett to return to base, but moments later, he saw a large fireball in his rearview mirror. He made several radio calls to Rockett, but did not hear or see anything from the aircraft. Due to the dangerous location, there were no further search and rescue attempts.

In June and July 1989, Vietnamese officials repatriated to the United States sets of remains of U.S. servicemembers. The officials also supplied documents identifying that three of the sets of remains were those of Rockett, Carrier and another serviceman, Col. Samuel C. Maxwell. It was later discovered that the name associations among those remains had been confused. In October and November 1989, Maxwell and Carrier were identified after further analysis, but the third set of remains could not be attributed to Rockett at that time.

In 1993, a joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), investigated the incident and interviewed witnesses. One Vietnamese citizen said that Rockett and Carrier were buried near the crash site, but that their remains were exhumed in 1978 by Vietnamese officials.

In 2001, another joint U.S./S.R.V. team re-interviewed witnesses and surveyed the burial and crash sites. Small pieces of airplane wreckage were found at the crash site.

In 2003, a maternal-line mitochondrial DNA reference sample for Rockett was obtained.

In 2006, another joint U.S./S.R.V. team excavated the burial sites, but recovered no human remains.

Using forensic identification tools, circumstantial evidence and mitochondrial DNA, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory identified Rockett’s remains, which were those previously repatriated to the United States in 1989.

For additional information of the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO web site at or call (703) 699-1420.