Guard Officer Missing in Action from Vietnam is identified
By , 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 20, 2007
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The remains of Maj. Perry Jefferson, a Colorado Air National Guardsman killed in Vietnam in 1969, have been identified, according to the Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office, which made the announcement on Dec. 18.
Major Jefferson will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., on April 3, the 39th anniversary of his final flight in Vietnam.
On April 3, 1969, Major Jefferson was an aerial observer on board an O-1G Bird Dog aircraft on a visual reconnaissance mission near Phan Rang Air Base, South Vietnam, when the base lost radio contact with him and Army 1st Lt. Arthur Ecklund. An extensive three-day search and rescue effort brought no results.
"It was a rough time," stated Maj. Gen. John France, former 140th Wing commander and Adjutant General of Colorado, in an interview with "Colorado Pride -- a Commemorative history of the Colorado Air National Guard", in 1998.
Just days before the 120th Fighter Squadron was to return home from a year-long deployment to Vietnam the squadron lost one of its pilots to ground fire. Maj. Clyde Seiler's F-100 Super Sabre was shot down while on a strafing mission. This was just three days before Major Jefferson failed to return from his intelligence-gathering mission.
"The loss of Clyde Seiler and Perry Jefferson was certainly the low point in our Phan Rang tour. Perry was everybody's friend. He somehow had a steady supply of Coors beer coming in and always had a cold one waiting for you. He took off in an O-1 on a normal observation run and never returned. He just vanished," stated General France.
Both Seiler and Jefferson were lost within three weeks of the 120th Fighter Squadron's return to Buckley.
In 1984, a former member of the Vietnamese Air Force turned over human remains to a U.S. official that he said represented one of two U.S. pilots whose aircraft was shot down.
In 1994 a joint U.S. and Socialist Republic of Vietnam team, led by the Joint POW/Missing in Action Accounting Command, interviewed two Vietnamese citizens regarding the incident.
The witnesses said the aircraft crashed on a mountainside, the pilots died, and two other men were sent to the site a few days later to bury the pilots.
The team excavated the crash site described by the witnesses and found aircraft wreckage. No human remains were found.
In 2000, the remains turned over in 1984 were identified as Lieutenant Ecklund's.
In 2001, a Vietnamese national living in California turned over human remains to U.S. officials that he said were recovered at a site where two U.S. pilots crashed. These remains were identified in 2007 as Major Jefferson's.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA and dental comparisons in identifying Jefferson's remains.
On Jan. 23, 1968, the Colorado Air National Guard was activated by President Johnson in response to the USS Pueblo's capture by North Korea earlier in the month. Over 14,600 Air Guardsmen and Navy Reservists were activated to back up the demands to return the Pueblo. Flying the F-100 Super Sabre, the 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron was the first Air National Guard organization ever to be called to combat as a unit. The personnel and planes returned to Buckley by mid-April 1969.