FINNEY, CHARLES ELBERT REMAINS RETURNED 03/15/00
Name: Charles Elbert Finney Rank/Branch: O3/US Marine Corps Unit: VMA 533, Marine Air Group 12, 1st Marine Air Wing Date of Birth: 05 August 1944 Home City of Record: Saltville MS Date of Loss: 17 March 1969 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 161900N 1063300E (XD530190) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A6A Refno: 1409
Other Personnel In Incident: Steven R. Armistead (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998.
SYNOPSIS: The Grumman A6 Intruder is a two-man all weather, low-altitude, carrier based attack plane, with versions adapted as aerial tanker and electronic warfare platform. The A6A primarily flew close-air-support, all weather and night attacks on enemy troop concentrations, and night interdiction missions. Its advanced navigation and attack system, known as DIANE (Digital Integrated Attack navigation Equipment) allowed small precision targets, such as bridges, barracks and fuel depots to be located and attacked in all weather conditions, day or night. The planes were credited with some of the most difficult single-plane strikes in the war, including the destruction of the Hai Duong bridge between Hanoi and Haiphong by a single A6. Their missions were tough, but their crews among the most talented and most courageous to serve the United States.
1LT Steven R. Armistead was the pilot and Capt. Charles E. Finney was the bombardier/navigator on board an A6A Intruder aircraft sent on a night mission over Laos on March 17, 1969. The mission was in support of air activity being conducted by the 7th Air Force.
When the aircraft had completed its target strike, it was hit by enemy fire and went down near the city of Muong Nong, located southwest of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), in Savannakhet Province, Laos. Air searches proved unsuccessful, and both men were listed as Missing In Action.
The Defense Intelligence Agency further expanded Armistead's and Finney's classifications to include an enemy knowledge ranking of 2. Category 2 indicates "suspect knowledge" and includes personnel who may have been involved in loss incidents with individuals reported in Category 1 (confirmed knowledge), or who were lost in areas or under conditions that they may reasonably be expected to be known by the enemy; who were connected with an incident which was discussed but not identified by names in enemy news media; or identified (by elimination, but not 100% positively) through analysis of all-source intelligence.
Finney and Armistead are among nearly 600 Americans lost in the country of Laos during the Vietnam War. Although the numbers of men actually termed "prisoner of war" are quite low, this can be explained in understanding the blanket of security surrounding the "secret war" the U.S. waged in Laos. To protect the public perception that we "were not in Laos," details of many loss incidents were "rearranged" to show a loss or casualty in South Vietnam. Only a handful of publicly-exposed cases were ever acknowledged POW, even though scores of pilots and ground personnel were known to have been alive and well at last contact (thus increasing the chance they were captured alive).
The Lao communist faction, the Pathet Lao, stated on several occasions they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, but the Pathet Lao were not included in the Paris Peace agreements ending American involvement in the war. Consequently, no American POWs held in Laos were negotiated for. Not one American held in Laos has ever been released. They were abandoned to the enemy.
Reports continue to be received that Americans are alive today, being held captive. Whether Armistead and Finney are among them is not known. What is certain, however, is that they deserve better than the abandonment they received at the hands of the country they so proudly served.
Charles Finney attended the military academy at West Point, and had been named first, to the Marine Corps Honor Guard, and later to the Silent Drill Team. He was promoted to the rank of Captain during the period he was maintained missing.
Steven R. Armistead was promoted to the rank of Major during the period he was missing.
No. 125-00 (703)697-5131(media) IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 14, 2000 (703)697-5737(public/industry)
VIETNAM WAR REMAINS IDENTIFIED
Two servicemen missing in action from the Vietnam War have been accounted for and are being returned to their families for burial in the United States.
They are identified as Navy Cmdr. James W. Hall, Los Angeles; and Marine Maj. Charles E. Finney, Saltillo, Miss.
On Oct. 28, 1972, Hall took off from the carrier USS America in his A-7C Corsair on a surface-to-air missile suppression mission. Over the target area in Nghe An province, North Vietnam, Hall was heard to radio to his wingman, "Two SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) lifting at 12 o'clock." No other radio messages were heard. The first missile missed his wingman, but the second struck Hall's aircraft. No parachute was observed, and no emergency radio beepers were heard.
In 1989, Vietnam repatriated to the United States 15 boxes allegedly containing the remains of U.S. servicemen. One was believed to be Hall, but forensic science at the time could not confirm an identification. His case was placed in a hold status pending the receipt of new evidence or the development of new forensic techniques that would assist in the identification.
Joint U.S.-Vietnamese teams, led by the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting, conducted investigations and excavations at suspected crash sites in 1993 and 1994. They found no remains, but did recover several pilot-related items. Mitochondrial DNA testing assisted in confirming the identity of the remains recovered in 1989.
On March 17, 1969, Finney was flying in an A-6A aircraft on a night armed reconnaissance mission over Laos. Crewmen from other aircraft in the area observed an explosion in the vicinity of the target, then a second explosion nearby which was believed to be that of Finney's aircraft. There were no parachutes sighted and no emergency beepers were heard. Search and rescue efforts were terminated several days later when no signs of survivors were found.
In 1995 and 1999, joint U.S.-Lao teams interviewed local villagers in the area of the crash, then conducted an excavation in Savannakhet province. A local worker turned over a military identification tag relating to Finney's fellow crewmember. The team also recovered numerous pieces of aircraft wreckage, personal effects and possible human remains. This evidence aided in the final identification.
With the accounting of Hall and Finney, 2,029 servicemen remain missing in action from the Vietnam War. Another 554 have been identified and returned to their families since the end of the war. Analysis of the remains and other evidence by the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii confirmed the identification of these two men.
The U.S. government welcomes and appreciates the cooperation of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic that resulted in the accounting of these servicemen. We hope that such cooperation will bring increased results in the future. Achieving the fullest possible accounting for these Americans is of the highest national priority. -