Name: Steven Ray Armistead
Rank/Branch: O2/US Marine Corps
Unit: VMA 533, Marine Air Group 12
Date of Birth: 15 June 1944
Home City of Record: Los Angeles CA
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: Charles E. Finney (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.


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

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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On February 29, 2000, the Joint Task Force–Full Accounting (JTF-FA, now DPAA) identified the remains of Major Charles Elbert Finney, missing from the Vietnam War.

Major Finney entered the U.S. Marine Corps from Mississippi and served with Marine All Weather Attack Squadron 533, Marine Attack Group 12, 1st Marine Air Wing. On March 17, 1969, he was the bombardier/navigator of an A-6A Intruder (bureau number 154160, call sign "Manual 82") on a low-level night armed reconnaissance mission over enemy targets in Savannakhet Province, Laos. While attacking its target, the aircraft exploded for unknown reasons and crashed into the ground in the target area. Maj Finney was killed in the incident, and inclement weather prevented searchers from locating the crash site and recovering his remains at the time. In 1999, joint U.S./Laotion teams interviewed local villagers and recovered aircraft wreckage, personal effects, and human remains from the crash site. Maj Finney was eventually identified from among the remains recovered. 

Major Finney is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

If you are a family member of this serviceman, you may contact your casualty office representative to learn more about your service member.