VADEN, WOODROW WILSON
Name: Woodrow Wilson Vaden Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 13 September 1916 Home City of Record: Clarksville TN Date of Loss: 10 December 1964 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 160720N 1081748E (BT105843) Status (in 1983): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 3 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: C123 Refno: 0046
Other Personnel in Incident: Dominick Sansone (remains returned)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 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: REMS POSS MIX W/VMS & BURIED - J
SYNOPSIS: During the mid-1960's most Americans were scarcely aware that the U.S. was beginning military activity in Southeast Asia. The U.S. military role at that time was that of advisors to the South Vietnamese military; an effort made to help the Vietnamese protect their homeland from communism.
Air Force MAJ Woodrow W. Vaden was an American member of a Vietnamese flight crew onboard a Fairchild C123 "Provider." The Provider, particularly in camoflage paint with mottled topside and light bottomside, resembled an arched-back whale suspended from the bottom midpoint of huge dorsal wings. Like other transports, the Provider proved its versatility during the Vietnam war serving as transport, attack aircraft, and later as part of the controversial Project Ranch Hand which sprayed pesticides and herbicides over Vietnam, including Agent Orange.
Another American onboard the aircraft was U.S. Army paratrooper SFC Dominick Sansone. The two Americans were flying with a group of South Vietnamese airmen on December 10, 1964 when the aircraft was shot down just east of Da Nang, killing all aboard.
For reasons now obscure, South Vietnamese authorities took possession of all recovered remains and took them to Saigon for burial in a military cemetery. U.S. authorities believed that the remains of one or both Americans were among those recovered. Sources say several unsuccessful attempts were made by the U.S. to locate and recover them from the cemetery during the war. Both men were listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.
In 1983, Vietnam discovered Sansone's remains and turned them over to the United States. The positive identification of the remains was announced the following year. Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, in a 1984 interview with Newsweek, used the case to illustrate the many practical difficulties in the search for America's missing.
"Even the most sophisticated U.S. computer that has documented the MIAs fails to be of help," he said. "For example, U.S. information given to us listed paratrooper Dominic Sansone...as MIA over Danang in 1964, and we found his remains buried in a cemetery outside of Ho Chi Minh City."
U.S. authorities knew that the Vietnamese were moving bodies from the cemetery in question but did not alert them to the probability that American remains were there. Why would the U.S. not report the location of Sansone's remains?
Many critics point to the Sansone case as an example of slipshod handling of the POW/MIA accounting effort. If the U.S. had been forthcoming with the knowledge on file concerning Sansone's body, perhaps his family would not have had to wait nearly 20 years for his return.
Even more curious is U.S. handling of the live POW issue. It is a rare news report that mentions any discussion between the U.S. and Vietnam for live American POWs in Southeast Asia, a startling oversight in light of well over a thousand first hand, live-sighting reports received by the U.S. concerning missing Americans.
Many authorities who have examined the largely-classified information relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia believe that hundreds are still alive in captivity today. From the manner in which their return has been handled, it sometimes seems that the U.S. Government doesn't really want them home.
Meanwhile, the fates of hundreds of men like Woodrow W. Vaden remain uncertain.