January 14, 2016 –
A specialized recovery team comprised of 15 joint service members and a forensic archeologist resumed excavation operations for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) at a rice paddy in Dien Bien province, Vietnam. The team’s efforts lasted five weeks, Nov. 11-Dec. 6, 2015, searching for an F-4C Phantom aircraft lost during an armed reconnaissance mission with two airmen unaccounted for in the spring of 1966.
The recovery team and local workers built two holding ponds and a wet screening station that utilized a pump and pipe system to run water over soil through mesh screens. When the team processed the 214 square meters of soil excavated during the mission, water pressure became an issue.
“The pressure of the water [was a difficulty],” said Sgt. 1st Class Benito Segura, DPAA team sergeant. “The water we are getting from a well is not enough, so we tend to use the same water over and over which causes the fittings on the hoses to clog up.”
As soil was washed through the screens, possible aircraft wreckage was found. The possible evidence may positively identify the recovery site as the suspected area of loss for the aircraft.
A life support investigator, working in conjunction with a forensic archeologist, reviewed aircraft wreckage as it came up unit by unit. Together they determined if the wreckage could indicate which aircraft the material came from.
“There are certain data plates on various components of the aircraft that can be traced through a parts manual to get you a specific classification of aircraft,” said Dr. Kimberly Maeyama, DPAA forensic archeologist. “Then you have other artifacts within the plane that will get you a specific tie to a very specific plane which is fixed to the loss of a particular service member.”