McNEILL, CLARENCE LEON Remains Returned (see text) Name: Clarence Leon McNeill Rank/Branch: E4/US Air Force Unit: 6994th Security Squadron Date of Birth: 30 June 1947 Home City of Record: Warsaw NC Date of Loss: 05 February 1969 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 152600N 1064700E (approx) Status (in 1973): Killed In Action Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: EC47 Refno: KIA1 Other Personnel in Incident: Hugh L. Sherburn; Robert E. Olson; Louis J. Clever; Harry T. Niggle; Homer M. Lynn Jr.; Walter F. Burke; James V. Dorsey Jr.; Rodney H. Gott; Wilton N. Hatton (all reported KIA) 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 2016. REMARKS: ** NOT ON MISSING LISTS ** SYNOPSIS: The Douglas C47 was designed as a transport, gunship, and electronic or regular reconnaissance aircraft, depending on the configuration. The aircraft served in World War II and served French forces in Indochina in the 1950's, and returned to Vietnam at the outset of American involvement there. On February 5, 1969, an EC47 (electronic surveillance) departed Pleiku Airbase, Republic of Vietnam on a tactical reconnaissance mission over Laos. The aircraft crew included LtCol. Harry T. Niggle, Capt. Walter F. Burke, Major Robert E. Olson, Major Homer M. Lynn Jr., MSgt. Wilton N. Hatton, SSgt. Rodney H. Gott, TSgt. Louis J. Clever, SSgt. James V. Dorsey Jr., SSgt. Hugh L. Sherburn (radio operator on the aircraft), and Sgt. Clarence L. McNeill. The last radio contact with the aircraft was at 8:10 a.m. at which time it was located about 21 miles west-northwest of the city of Chavane in Saravane Province, Laos. When the aircraft failed to make a scheduled stop at Phu Bai Airport near Hue shortly before noon, search efforts were initiated to locate the aircraft. During the remainder of the day and for six succeeding days, extensive communication and ramp checks were made, as well as a visual search of the area from the last known position of the aircraft through its intended flight path. Because no information was forthcoming which would reveal the whereabouts of the missing aircraft and crew, the search was then terminated. In the fall of 1969, the wreckage of an EC47 was located in a jungle-covered mountainous area in the approximate last known location of Sherburn's aircraft. The wreckage site was searched, and remains and a number of items were recovered. These items were later correlated to Sherburn's aircraft. The Department of the Air Force believes that the aircraft was faced with a sudden airborne emergency since the right wing of the aircraft was found some 500 meters from the main wreckage site. It was believed that the engine caught fire causing the wing to separate from the fuselage while the aircraft was still in the air. Further, the Air Force states that although the crew members had parachutes, it is unlikely that the apparent suddenness of the emergency would have permitted anyone to abandon the aircraft. The absence of emergency radio signals further diminished the hope that any of the crew members could have survived. At this time, the Air Force declared the ten men onboard the aircraft to be dead, and so notified the families. The remains found at the crash site were interred in a single grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. Military officials told eight of the families that the remains of only two individuals had been identified, but would not reveal those identities to them. (It is assumed that the families of the two individuals identified were informed.) In February 1970, the Sherburn family was informed that the remains found at the crash site were skeletal and commingled, and that Air Force identification specialists were unable to determine that they had a composite of ten individuals -- and were unable to establish the identity of any of the remains. About the same time the crew of the EC47 was being interred in St. Louis, another mass burial was conducted, containing 18 USMC and Navy personnel. On January 28, 1973, PFC Ronald Ridgeway, one of those 18 "dead and buried" servicemen, was released alive from a POW camp in Hanoi. The U.S. had not known that he was a prisoner of war. Although the relatives found little hope in Ridgeway's return, some thought it entirely possible that others might have escaped with Ridgeway. How many others, some family members wondered, had been captured without the U.S. finding out? If such a thing could happen to the Marine and Navy group, what about the EC47 lost in Laos? Unfortunately, when the war ended, no American held in Laos was released. The U.S. has not negotiated the freedom of a single man the Pathet Lao asserted they held prisoner in Laos. The U.S. Government has never changed its position on the Marines, Navy and Air Force personnel interred in mass graves in St. Louis, and has continued to state unequivocally that they were killed in action because the families could not produce proof otherwise. Although the government lacked positive evidence that most of these men were dead, its assumption that they were dead overruled any assumption that they might be alive. The Marine Corps has admitted that some of those "buried" men could have been captured, but that it is doubtful. Even though considerable doubt surrounds the identification of the men buried in St. Louis, and, indeed, some of them might have survived, official status change has been denied.
Please note that McNeill was returned to his home state of NC in Nov. 2014 after remains were identified from the communal grave in Missouri.
...In the summer of 2013, the USAF with the concurrence of the 10 families, exhumed the remains and sent them to Offutt Air Force Base for contemporary DNA analysis. Substantial amounts of remains of seven of the 10 crew members were positively identified....
Donna L. Comer
North Carolina Patriot Guard