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The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today
that the remains of two U.S. Army officers, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been
identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
They are Colonel Sheldon J. Burnett of Pelham, N.H. and Warrant Officer Randolph J.
Ard of West Pensacola, Fla. Burnett is to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery on
Wednesday. Ard was buried last month in Alabama.
On March 7, 1971, Ard flew his OH-58A Kiowa helicopter from South Vietnam to
transport three passengers, including Burnett, to an area on the Vietnam- Laos border. As the
helicopter approached a landing zone, it was hit by enemy antiaircraft fire and crashed in
Savannakhet Province, Laos. Two of the passengers survived the crash and evaded capture as
enemy forces attacked. When they reached friendly lines, the two reported that Burnett and Ard
were still alive but badly injured.
After 11 days of heavy resistance, South Vietnamese ground forces reached the crash site
but found no trace of the missing men or any graves.
Between 1989 and 1996, joint U.S.-Lao teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting
Command (JPAC) conducted five separate field investigations which met with negative results.
Then in 2002, U.S. specialists interviewed four former North Vietnamese soldiers, three of
which had seen the bodies of the two unaccounted-for U.S. officers. The fourth soldier had
drawn a sketch of the area shortly after the incident and all volunteered to assist U.S.
investigators in Laos.
In 2003, the four Vietnamese witnesses and local Lao villagers guided the team to the
crash site in Laos where they found some aircraft wreckage but no human remains. Then in
Aug.-Sept. 2004, JPAC and Lao specialists excavated the crash site and two nearby graves where
they found human remains, U.S. military clothing and personal effects, including Ard’s
After extensive analysis of the remains and teeth recovered during the excavation, JPAC
scientists identified both Ard and Burnett.
Of the 88,000 Americans missing in action from all conflicts, 1,836 are from the Vietnam
War, with 375 of those within the country of Laos. Another 747 Americans have been accounted
for since the end of the Vietnam War.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing
Americans, visit the DPMO web site at www.dtic.mil/dpmo, or call 703-699-1169.