BARRAS, GREGORY INMAN Remains returned, identified 12/03/98
Name: Gregory Inman Barras Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 13 October 1932 Home City of Record: Jackson MS Date of Loss: 18 December 1968 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 173500N 1053100E (WE604443) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 3 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: A1H Refno: 1342 Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
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 1998.
SYNOPSIS: The Douglas A1 Skyraider ("Spad") is a highly maneuverable, propeller driven aircraft designed as a multipurpose attack bomber or utility aircraft. The A1 was first used by the Air Force in its Tactical Air Command to equip the first Air Commando Group engaged in counterinsurgency operations in South Vietnam, and later used in roles ranging from multi-seat electronic intelligence gathering to Navy antisubmarine warfare and rescue missions.
Maj. Gregory I. Barras was an A1 pilot sent on a combat mission on December 18, 1968. He departed his base (probably in Thailand) and continued along his briefed flight path until he was over the Ho Chi Minh Trail area of Laos. About 20 miles west of the Mu Gia Pass, Barras' aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed.
The Mu Gia Pass was one of several passageways through the mountainous border of Vietnam and Laos. American aircraft flying from Thailand to missions over North Vietnam flew through them regularly, and many aircraft were lost. On the Laos side of the border coursed the "Ho Chi Minh Trail", a road heavily traveled by North Vietnamese troops moving materiel and personnel to their destinations through the relative safety of neutral Laos. The return ratio of men lost in and around the passes is far lower than that of those men lost in more populous areas, even though both were shot down by the same enemy and the same weapons. This is partly due to the extremely rugged terrain and resulting difficulty in recovery.
The opportunity existed that Barras ejected safely and he was classified Missing in Action. He is among nearly 600 Americans who were lost in Laos during U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia.
When the war ended and 591 Americans were released from POW camps, not one who had been held in Laos came home. The U.S. did not negotiate with the Lao for the POWs they stated they held because the U.S. did not recognize the communist government faction, the Pathet Lao.
Since American involvement in Vietnam ended in 1975, over 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing, prisoner, or otherwise unaccounted for in Indochina have been received by the U.S. Government. Many officials, having examined this largely classified information, have reluctantly concluded that many Americans are still alive today, held captive by our long-ago enemy.
Whether Barras survived the crash of his aircraft to be captured by the multitude of enemy along the Ho Chi Minh Trail is certainly not known. It is not known if he might be among those thought to be still alive today. What is certain, however, is that as long as even one American remains alive, held against his will, we owe him our very best efforts to bring him to freedom.
Gregory I. Barras graduated from West Point in 1955. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel during the period he was maintained missing.
No. 189-M MEMORANDUM FOR CORRESPONDENTS Dec. 3, 1998
The remains of two American airmen previously unaccounted-for from the war in Southeast Asia have been identified and are being returned to the United States for burial. They are identified as Air Force Col. Gregory I. Barras, Jackson, Miss., and Air Force Capt. Joseph O. Brown, Norwalk, Conn.
Barras was flying his A-1H Skyraider on a night armed reconnaissance mission on Dec. 18, 1968, over Khammouan Province, Laos. The target of his flight of aircraft was a truck convoy. Barras radioed that he was beginning the attack on the target, but in the darkness, eyewitness pilots saw only a large flash near the target area followed by a series of explosions that formed a line 200-300 meters long. The other pilots were unable to establish radio contact with Barras, and heard no emergency beepe r signals. In the light of flares dropped from other aircraft, searchers could see only wreckage of an aircraft, but no signs of a survivor.
In 1991, a joint team of specialists from the U.S. Joint Casualty Resolution Center and from Laos interviewed a local informant in a small village near the crash site. He recalled burying an American pilot nearby amid the widely scattered wreckage of an aircraft. The team excavated the site and found pilot-related items, personal effects and human remains.
Brown was the pilot of a O-1F Bird Dog aircraft flying a forward air control mission over Khammouan Province, Laos, on April 19, 1966. He radioed that his aircraft's horizontal stabilizer had been shot away by enemy fire, and was climbing to a higher altitude. But as the crew of the other aircraft watched, Brown's aircraft went into a dive, rolled twice and crashed. They saw no parachute and heard no emergency beeper signals.
Joint teams of U.S. and Laos specialists visited the area of the crash on two occasions in 1994 and 1995. Led by the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting, the teams recovered pilot-related items, an aircraft data plate from Brown's aircraft, as well as human remains.
Anthropological analysis of the remains and other evidence by the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii established the identification of both Barras and Brown.
With the identification of these two Air Force officers, the remains of 507 Americans have been accounted for since 1973, and 2,076 are still unaccounted-for from the war in Southeast Asia. The U.S. government welcomes and appreciates the cooperation of the government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic which led to 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 t he highest national priority.