Remains Returned - ID Announced 08 February 1990

Name: Michael Howard Mein
Rank/Branch: E4/US Army Special Forces
Unit: Command & Control North, MACV-SOG, 5th Special Forces Group
Date of Birth: 13 March 1945 (Oneida NY)
Home City of Record: Cape Vincent NY
Date of Loss: 30 November 1968
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 163852N 1062514E (XD515410)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 4
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: CH34
Refno: 1333

Other Personnel In Incident: Gary R. LaBohn; Klaus D. Scholz; Raymond Stacks;
Samuel K. Toomey; Arthur E.Bader (all missing); Richard A. Fitts (remains

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 with the assistance of
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: Corporal Michael Howard Mein was born in Oneida, New York on March
13, 1945. When he joined the Army and went to Vietnam, Mein was part of
Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG)
which was a joint service high command unconventional warfare task force
engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th
Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (though it was not a
Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA) which
provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. These teams
performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and
interdiction missions in Laos and Cambodia which were called, depending on
the country and time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions.

On November 30, 1968, Sgt. Richard A. Fitts, Sgt. Arthur E. Bader, Cpl. Gary
R. LaBohn, SSgt. Klaus D. Scholz, Maj. Samuel K. Toomey, Cpl. Michael H.
Mein, 1Lt. Raymond C. Stacks were passengers aboard a Vietnamese Air Force
CH34 helicopter (serial #14-4653) as their team was being transported to
their reconnaissance mission area in Laos. Details of their mission was
classified at that time, and remains classified in early 1990. However,
information received from some of the family members indicates that the
mission was related to disarming an enemy munitions store. This same account
includes the informaton that Maj. Toomey was a chemical warfare expert.
Other information states that he was a communications officer. Toomey's
family identified his job as one that he could not talk about, but that he
was an "Advisor to the Special Forces."

The helicopter was flying at 4,000 feet when it was struck by 37mm
anti-aircraft fire, went into a spin, crashed in a mass of flames and
exploded. The helicopter crashed about 10 miles northwest of Khe Sanh, just
into Laos east of Tchepone. The crash site is in heavy jungle, near a
stream. From the time the aircraft was hit until the time it impacted out of
view, the helicopter was under observation and no one was seen to leave the
aircraft during its descent. No ground search was initiated because the
location was in a denied area. Later visual search indicated that the
pilot's hatch was open, and his helmet was seen 25-30 feet from the
helicopter, but no survivors or bodies were seen. All the personnel aboard
the aircraft, however, were not declared dead, but were were declared
Missing in Action, which was procedure when no proof of death existed.

When the war ended, and 591 Americans were releaesed from prison camps in
Southeast Asia, not one man who had been held in Laos was released. Although
the Pathet Lao stated publicly that they held "tens of tens" of Americans,
no negotiations occurred which would free them at that time, nor have any
occurred since.

In March 1988, the area in which the helicopter crashed was excavated by a
joint Lao/US technical team. Human remains consisting of 17 teeth and 145
bone fragments, none measuring over two inches, were recovered. The remains
were returned to the U.S. Army Central Identification (CIL) in Hawaii.

On January 3, 1990, it was announced that the remains of Richard Fitts had
been positively identified from the material recovered at the crash site.
That identification was determined by the government's conclusion that two
of the 17 teeth belonged to Fitts. Fitts' parents, after having an
independent analysis conducted on the teeth, felt assured that the teeth
belonged to their son, and subsequently buried them in Boston,
Massachusetts. The remaining 15 teeth and 145 bone fragments were said to be

Barely a month later, on February 8, 1990, the Department of Defense
announced that the remainder of the crew had been positively identified and
would be buried, along with the Vietnamese crew, in a mass grave in
Arlington National Cemetery. Fitts' name was included on that tombstone
along with the other Americans because the Pentagon believed some of the
bone fragments belonged to Fitts. Thus, even though the remains were
scientifically unidentifiable, the cases were closed on these individuals.

Critics of the U.S. Government's identification of the entire crew of the
helicopter point to a similar incident some years ago. In 1968,
unidentifiable remains attributed to a group of U.S. Marines killed near Khe
Sanh on February 25, 1968 were buried in a mass grave in St. Louis. One of
the deceased was identified as being Marine Sgt. Ronald Ridgeway.

Five years later, Ridgeway was released from a Vietnamese prisoner of war
camp, giving rise to considerable speculation as to the validity of the
positive identification of the other remains buried in St. Louis.

There are still over 2300 Americans who remain prisoner, missing, or
otherwise unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. Nearly 600 of them were lost in
Laos. The U.S. Government, by early 1990, had received nearly 10,000 reports
relating to Americans missing in Southeast Aisa. Many authorities believe
there are hundreds of Americans still alive today, held captive.

In recent years, the numbers of remains returned from Vietnam and excavated
in Laos has increased dramatically. Government strategists happily point to
this as "progress" on the POW/MIA issue, although most of these remains are
still unidentified. Indeed, many families, having had independent studies of
the remains to assure accurate identification, now have answers to
long-awaited concerns about their loved ones. However, when remains are
positively identified, the U.S. Government closes the books and the search
for that missing man ends. Can we afford to close the books on an American
who may be alive waiting for his country to bring him home?

How many will serve in the next war knowing they may be abandoned?