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.
REMARKS:
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.
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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.
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