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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 returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
He is Pfc. James E. Widener, U.S. Marine Corps, of Churchville, N.Y. He will be buried
on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
On June 11, 1967, Widener was one of 11 passengers on board a CH-46A Sea Knight
helicopter that was inserting ground forces into Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam, when the
aircraft crashed. Pilots from two nearby helicopters saw the crash and reported that none of the
men on board could have survived. Aircraft flew over the site for several hours, but aircrew
didn’t observe and survivors. A patrol was sent the next day to confirm the status of the 11
crewmembers, but the site could not be accessed due to enemy forces in the area. Later that
month, enemy activity prevented a second attempt to patrol the site.
Between 1993 and 1994, U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) teams, led by the
Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), conducted two surveys of an area that was
believed to be Widener’s crash site. The teams also interviewed several Vietnamese citizens who
recalled the crash. Two of the citizens claimed to have seen bone fragments while scavenging the
site years earlier. When the teams visited the purported crash site, they found small pieces of
wreckage, but found no human remains.
In May 2005, Vietnamese officials notified U.S. specialists that possible human remains
were present at a district security compound in Quang Tri province. The Vietnamese claimed to
have confiscated the remains and other items, including Widener’s identification tag, from a
Vietnamese local in 1996. The remains were then buried in the security compound, but the ID tag
and other material evidence had supposedly been lost over the years. Later that month, a
U.S./S.R.V. team excavated the burial site in the security compound and recovered a box
containing human remains.
Among dental records and other forensic tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists
from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA
from two known maternal relatives to confirm the identification of the remains.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing
Americans, visit the DPMO web site at or call (703) 699-1169.