It was Christmas Eve 1965 when the Air Force plane nicknamed “Spooky” took off from Vietnam for a combat mission. The crew sent out a “mayday” signal while flying over Laos, and after that, all contact was lost. Two days of searches turned up nothing.
For years, that was all the families knew about what happened to the six servicemen aboard the plane. Now, nearly 50 years after the AC-47D went down, a measure of finality comes Monday: Remains from the six men will be buried with full military honors in a single casket at Arlington National Cemetery.
The burial comes after the recovery of remains in 2010 and 2011 by joint U.S.-Laotian search teams. Examiners relied on dental records, personal items recovered from the site and circumstantial evidence to conclude that the recovered remains are representative of all six Air Force servicemen: Col. Joseph Christiano of Rochester, N.Y.; Col. Derrell B. Jeffords of Florence, S.C.; Lt. Col. Dennis L. Eilers of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Chief Master Sgt. William K. Colwell of Glen Cove, N.Y.; Chief Master Sgt. Arden K. Hassenger of Lebanon, Ore.; and Chief Master Sgt. Larry C. Thornton of Idaho Falls, Idaho.
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