The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Staff Sgt. Kenneth L. Cunningham, 21, of Ellery, Illinois, will be buried Jan. 21 in Albion, Illinois. On Oct. 3, 1969, Cunningham was assigned to the 225th Aviation Company, 223rd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade, as a crewmember of an OV-1C aircraft. Cunningham and his pilot were conducting a night surveillance mission when they failed to return at their scheduled time. On Oct. 5, a search and rescue aircraft crew located OV-1 wreckage atop a 7,000-foot mountain peak north of Kon Tum Town, South Vietnam. Due to inclement weather, a ground party was unable to land, and hostile activity in the area further rendered recovery efforts unsuccessful. Cunningham was declared missing in action.
In March 1993, a joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) team interviewed witnesses in Kon Tum Province about the crash of the aircraft. The team surveyed the crash site and recovered various aircraft parts, aircrew related items, and personal effects.
In April 1996, January 1997, and in November 2010, additional joint U.S./S.R.V. teams excavated the crash site and a possible burial site, finding possible human remains, aircraft wreckage, personal effects, and military gear.
To identify Cunningham’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used anthropological analysis and mitochondrial DNA analysis, which matched his mother and brother, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.
The support from the government of Vietnam was vital to the success of these recovery missions.
Today there are more than 1,600 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.