Remains Returned - ID Announced 900103

Name: Earl Roger Biggs
Rank/Branch: E7/US Army Special Forces
Unit: Company D, Detachment A-411, 5th SFG
Date of Birth: 23 March 1932
Home City of Record: Matheny WV
Date of Loss: 16 January 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 102755N 1060838E (XS252570)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 1
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Refno: 0990
Other Personnel In Incident: Frank C. Parrish (fate unknown - see text)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 with the assistance
of 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: On January 16, 1968, SFC Earl Biggs and SFC Frank Parrish were
serving as advisors to a Vietnamese strike force. That morning, they
departed with a camp strike force company from Phuoc Tay on a search
operation extending east of the camp. At 1215 hours, about 16 miles
northwest of My Tho, Vietnam, the strike force was ambushed by Vietnamese
communists. Later that afternoon, two companies were inserted into the same
area to look for survivors.

Search efforts were continued until January 18 without the recovery of Biggs
or Parrish. CIDG and LLDB survivors reported that the Viet Cong captured and
summarily executed both Biggs and Parrish. Both men were classified Missing
in Action. The Defense Intelligence Agency further expanded the
classification to include an enemy knowledge ranking of 1. Category 1
indicates "confirmed knowledge" and includes all personnel who were
identified by the enemy by name, identified by reliable information received
from escapees or releasees, reported by highly reliable intelligence
sources, or identified through analysis of all-source intelligence.

On January 17, 1972, remains were reported in the vicinity of the action
which were determined to be those of SFC Parrish. These remains were
recovered and identified in June, 1973 and returned to Parrish's family for
burial. Parrish's brother, Johnnie, thought the forensic evidence was

Government forensics experts had based their identification of Sgt. Parrish
on three pieces of evidence: (1) the remains had been found near where St.
Parrish had been ambushed; (2) photographs of Parrish supposedly
corresponded with x-rays of the skull, even though the skull had neither
jawbone nor teeth; and (3) medical equipment like that which Sgt. Parrish
carried was found near the ambush site.

The Pentagon informed Johnnie Parrish that he could accept it or reject it,
but the identification was final. It was "concrete proof."  Parrish's
parents accepted the identification, and eventually, Johnnie Parrish did
also, however reluctantly.

After American involvement in Indochina ended in 1975, reports relating to
Americans missing in Southeast Asia began to be received by the U.S.
Government. There have been reports of other remains having been exhumed by
local farmers, but no confirmation has been possible of their identity.
These reports have been tentatively correlated to several cases of missing

On Friday, December 29, 1989, members of Frank Parrish's family met with
government officials (a military man named Cole and a civilian named
Manning) who explained that an error had been made in 1973. Newly recovered
remains returned by the Vietnamese to U.S. control had been positively
identified as those of Frank Parrish. At the same time, the remains of
Parrish's partner, SFC Earl R. Biggs, had been recovered and identified. The
family was shown new forensic data, including dental records. This time,
Johnnie Parrish felt assured that the identification had been accurately
made. The officials explained that a meeting would be held in Washington the
following Tuesday, following the holiday weekend, to record the family's
acceptance of the new remains identification and to establish a timetable
for exchanging the remains. Johnnie Parrish requested that he be kept fully
informed, and was assured that he would be.

On Saturday, December 30, John Parrish drove from his home in Joshua, Texas
to the Rose Hill Cemetery in Cleburn to visit his brother's grave. He
photographed the grave.

On New Year's Day, 1990, John Parrish again drove from his home to Rose Hill
Cemetery for a funeral ceremony for an old friend. After the ceremony,
Parrish decided to again visit the gravesite of his younger brother. What he
found there shocked and angered him. His brother's grave had been opened and
the remains removed. He had not been informed.

Parrish immediately drove to the Crusier-Pearson-Mayfield Funeral Home and
was told that the grave had been opened because they had needed to prepare
the gravesite for his brother's body, which would be buried at 1:00 the
following day. Parrish was once again shocked and angered that he had not
been told.

January 2, 1990, on the day of the supposed meeting to determine a timetable
for exchange of remains, Frank Parrish was buried in his home state of
Texas. On January 3, 1990, the U.S. announced that remains returned by the
Vietnamese during 1989 had been positively identified as being those of SFC
Earl R. Biggs. No public mention was made of the newly-identified remains of
Frank Parrish.

Further investigation revealed that neither the U.S. Government nor the
funeral home had obtained proper exhumation and transportation permits to
remove and transport the remains from Frank Parrish's grave. Over a holiday
weekend, the government had secretly and illegally removed the body, and had
not notified the family as promised. Had John Parrish not investigated,
Frank Parrish might have been buried without his family present. Critics
began using terms like "grave-robbing" in relation to the Parrish case.

In the Parrish case, the 1973 identification was hastily and incorrectly
made. Other similar cases support criticism that the U.S. Government is
making positive identifications, sometimes upon the flimsiest of evidence,
in order to more quickly resolve the issue of the more than 2300 Americans
missing in Southeast Asia. In this case, the family was further grieved by
the inept conduct of the government in notifying them of the exchange and
burial schedule.

Of the greatest concern, however, is the fact that, for 17 years, the U.S.
Government had considered Frank Parrish "accounted for." Therefore, even if
a first-hand live sighting report had been received that Parrish was alive,
it would have been discredited on the basis that he was dead. The government
had "concrete proof."

Tragically, reports of Americans still held in captivity continue to flow
into the U.S. intelligence community. Many officials who have seen these
largely classified reports are convinced that hundreds of Americans are
still alive in Southeast Asia, still prisoners of a war that most Americans
would like to put behind them.

Many fear the books are being closed on Americans who are alive. If so, what
would they think of us for allowing it to happen? How many would serve the
next time their country called them if they knew they could be abandoned?