HARRIS, JEFFREY LYNDOL REMAINS RETURNED 05/97 Name: Jeffrey Lyndol Harris Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 28 May 1943 Home City of Record: Clinton MD Date of Loss: 10 May 1972 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 214100N 1050700E (WJ120975) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4E Other Personnel in Incident: Dennis E. Wilkinson (remains returned) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 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. REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: In the spring of 1972, the U.S. formulated the LINEBACKER offensive. Its objective was to keep the weapons of war out of North Vietnam. At this time, the North Vietnamese had one of the best air defense systems in the world, with excellent radar integration of SA-2 SAMs, MiGs, and antiaircraft artillery. The NVN defense system could counter our forces from ground level up to nineteen miles in the air. MiG fighters were on ready alert, and after takeoff, were vectored by ground-control radar. Soviet advisors devised attack strategies, manned a number of the SAM sites, and also trained North Vietnamese crews. On the first strike day, the entire force encountered heavy concentrations of anti-aircraft fire and 16 MiGs were seen. Three of the MiGs were downed, but the Air Force lost an air crew. An F4E flown by Capt. Jeffrey L. Harris and Weapons Systems Officer Capt. Dennis E. Wilkinson exploded and crashed. The Air Force believed there was reason to believe the two escaped the crippled plane, and declared them both Missing in Action. In 1973, 591 Americans were released from prisons in Hanoi. Harris and Wilkinson were not among them. Military officials were dismayed that hundreds of known or suspected prisoners were not released. In 1978, Congressman "Sonny" Montgomery led a much-maligned delegation to Hanoi to determine whether any American POWs remained in Vietnam. The Vietnamese told him there were none, and gave the delegation a few sets of American remains. Mr. Montgomery returned with the report that all Americans were dead. One of the sets of remains given to Montgomery was subsequently identified as Dennis E. Wilkinson. If the Vietnamese could account for him, it seems unlikely that they are unable to account for Harris as well. LINEBACKER and LINEBACKER II offensives were the most effective strikes against enemy defenses in the war. By the end of these surgical strikes, according to pilots who flew the missions, the North Vietnamese had "nothing left to shoot at us as we flew over. It was like flying over New York City." Nearly 2500 Americans did not return from the war in Vietnam. Thousands of reports have been received indicating that some hundreds remain alive in captivity. As in the case of Wilkinson, Vietnam and her communist allies can account for most of them. In the total view of the issue of the missing, however, the return of remains signals no progress. In the early 1980's the very credible Congressional testimony of a Vietnamese mortician indicated that the Vietnamese possess over 400 sets of remains. In 15 years, they have returned barely half of them. More importantly, the same credible witness, whose testimony is believed throughout Congress, stated that he had seen live Americans held at the same location where the remains were stored. As long as even one American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia, the only issue is that one living man. We must bring them home before there are only remains to negotiate for.
-------------------------------------------------- MEMORANDUM FOR CORRESPONDENTS (MFC05-29) May 29, 1997 The remains of an American serviceman previously unaccounted-for from the war in Southeast Asia have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial in the United States. He is Captain Jeffrey L. Harris, USAF, of Clinton, Md. On May 10, 1972, Capt. Harris was flying his F-4E Phantom on a combat mission over North Vietnam when he was attacked by a MiG-19. The flight leader of the mission observed Capt. Harris' aircraft burst into flames shortly before it crashed. There were no radio transmissions heard from the stricken aircraft, and no one in the flight saw any parachutes or received any emergency beeper signals. In August 1978 the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) unilaterally turned over the remains of Air Force Capt. Dennis E. Wilkinson, the weapons systems officer aboard the F-4E. Wilkinson, of West Palm Beach, Fla., was positively identified the following month. Three joint U.S. - S.R.V. teams conducted investigations and excavations in 1993, 1995 and 1996. During the last excavation, they recovered human remains, personal effects, crew-related equipment and a blood chit. A blood chit is a document often carried by aircrew members to aid in their escape or evasion if they crash behind enemy lines. Individual remains of Harris, and group remains of both Harris and Wilkinson are being returned to their families for burial at a later date. With the identification of Capt. Harris, 2,123 American servicemen remain unaccounted-for from the war in Southeast Asia. The U.S. government welcomes and appreciates the cooperation of the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam which resulted in the accounting of this serviceman. 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. -------------------------------------------------- National Alliance of Families Newsletter 05/31/97 REMAINS RETURNED -- The Pentagon announced the remains identification of Air Force Capt. Jeffrey L. Harris. Captain Harris and Capt. Dennis E. Wilkinson were aboard a F-4E shot down over North Vietnam on May 10th, 1972. The remains of Capt. Wilkinson were unilaterally turned over, by the Vietnamese in August 1978. They were positively identified the following month, according to the Defense POW/MIA Weekly Update. Three joint U.S. - SRV investigations and excavations in 1993, 1995, and 1996 were conducted with remains recovered during the 1996 excavation. Also recovered were personal effects, crew equipment and a blood chit. Individual remains of Capt. Harris will be returned to his family. Individually unidentifiable commingled remains of both crewmen will also be returned for burial. To the Harris and Wilkinson family, we offer our prayers, support and hope that you now have the answers you truly deserve. ############# QUESTIONS -- The recovery of remains associated to Capt. Harris, raises several questions in our minds. Captain Wilkinson's remains were returned by the Vietnamese in 1978 and positively identified. Under what circumstances did the Vietnamese come to have Captain Wilkinson's remains? Did he and Capt. Harris die in the crash? Did the Vietnamese recover Capt. Wilkinson's remains from the crash site and return them to the United States? If so, why didn't they recover the remains of Capt. Harris at the s ame time and return them also? It seems highly unlikely that the Vietnamese would recover one set of remains from a crash site and leave another. Were both sets of remains recovered and stored with one crewman returned and one held in the warehouse for later "discovery.?" Did one or both of the crewmen survive the incident only to die unacknowledged in a second tier prison camp? Were Capt. Harris remains returned to the excavation site, in 1996, to be "discovered" by JTF-FA investigators? QUESTIONS --- Even when a family is presented with a good identification, and we don't know that to be true in this case, they are still left with many unanswered questions. Questions that the Vietnamese could easily answer and choose not to. So much for that "superb cooperation" we all hear so much about.