On July 19, 1967, the four servicemen took off from the USS Hornet aboard an SH-3A Sea King helicopter, on a search and rescue mission looking for a downed pilot in Ha Nam Province, North Vietnam according to a Department of Defense release.
During the mission, the helicopter was hit anti-aircraft gunfire, causing the aircraft to lose control, catch fire and crash, killing all four servicemen.
Navy Lt. Dennis W. Peterson of Huntington Park, Calif., was the pilot of a SH-3A helicopter. Peterson was accounted for on March 30, 2012. Also, aboard the aircraft was Ensign Donald P. Frye of Los Angeles, Calif.; Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Technicians William B. Jackson of Stockdale, Texas; and Donald P. McGrane of Waverly, Iowa.
The crew will be buried, as a group, on May 2, 2013, Thursday, at Arlington National Cemetery.
Solving the MIA Mystery
Finding and identifying their remains reads somewhat like a mystery according to the DoD news release.
- In October 1982, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) repatriated five boxes of remains to U.S. officials. In 2009, the remains within the boxes were identified as Frye, Jackson, and McGrane.
- In 1993, a joint U.S./S.R.V. team, investigated a loss in Ha Nam Province. The team interviewed local villagers who identified possible burial sites linked to the loss. One local claimed to have buried two of the crewmen near the wreckage, but indicated that both graves had subsequently been exhumed.
- Between 1994 and 2000, three joint U.S./S.R.V. teams excavated the previous site and recovered human remains and aircraft wreckage that correlated to the crew’s SH-3A helicopter. In 2000, U.S. personnel excavated the crash site recovering additional remains. Analysis from the Joint POW/MIA Command Central Identification Laboratory subsequently designated these additional remains as the co-mingled remains of all four crewmen, including Peterson.
Defense Department scientists used forensics and circumstantial evidence to identify the missing crew’s remains.