Saturday, April 05, 2008

Coming Home ~ Major Perry H Jefferson

U.S. Air Force Airmen with the Air Force Honor Guard carry the remains of Air Force Maj. Perry Jefferson to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., April 3, 2008. Jefferson, who went missing in action in Vietnam 39 years ago, was an intelligence officer with the Colorado Air National Guard's 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron. More than 150 people attended Jefferson's service to watch Colorado's last reported Vietnam-era MIA service member be laid to rest.
DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. MikeR. Smith, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

Major Perry Henry Jefferson
Born August 13, 1931 - Casualty April 3, 1969
Laid to Rest Arlinton National Cemetery April 3, 2008 - 39 years later
Welcome Home ~ Rest in Peace

The final member of the Colorado Air National Guard missing in Vietnam has returned home to his resting place in Arlington National Cemetery ~ Major Perry H. Jefferson, U.S. Air Force, of Denver, Colorado.

Dozens of men from the Colorado Air National Guard's 120th Fighter Squadron who served in Vietnam with Maj. Perry Jefferson of Denver, flew via a Wyoming Air National Guard C-130 to Arlington National Cemetery to attend the ceremonies. The Patriot Guard Riders were also in attendance. The pallbearers were followed by the POW/MIA flag bearer.

Maj Jefferson's Arlington Tribute page is here:

Article from Buckley Air Force Base:

Video of Maj Jefferson's Brother:

Retired flight chief Art Sharpley, right, and dozens of Vietnam War veterans and Colorado National Guard members board a Wyoming Air National Guard aircraft traveling to Washington, D.C., for an interment and remembrance ceremony at Virginia's Arlington National Cemetery for Major Perry Jefferson.

Official Press Release

Air Force Officer Missing In Action From Vietnam War Is Identified
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

He is Maj. Perry H. Jefferson, U.S. Air Force, of Denver, Colo. He will be buried April 3, 2008 in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

On April 3, 1969, Jefferson was an aerial observer on board an O-1G Bird Dog aircraft on a visual reconnaissance mission over a mountainous region in Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. The pilot of the aircraft, then U.S. Army 1st Lt. Arthur G. Ecklund, radioed Phan Rang airbase to report his location, but contact was lost soon after. An extensive, three-day search and rescue effort began, but no evidence of a crash was found. Hostile threats in the area precluded further search efforts.

In 1984, a former member of the Vietnamese Air Force turned over to a U.S. official human remains that he said represented one of two U.S. pilots whose aircraft was shot down. In 1994 a joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), interviewed two Vietnamese citizens regarding the incident. The witnesses said the aircraft crashed on a mountainside, the pilots died and were buried at the site. They said two other men were sent to the site a few days later to bury the pilots. The team excavated the crash site described by the witnesses and found aircraft wreckage. No human remains were found.

In 2000, the remains turned over in 1984 were identified as Ecklund's.

In 2001, a Vietnamese national living in California turned over to U.S. officials human remains that he said were recovered at a site where two U.S. pilots crashed. These remains were identified in 2007 as Jefferson's.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA and dental comparisons in identifying Jefferson's remains.

For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at [u] or call (703) 699-1169.

Last Colorado Air Guard MIA Laid to Rest in Arlington Cemetery
By Tech. Sgt. Mike R. Smith, USAF Special to American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., April 4, 2008 - The remains of Colorado Air National Guard Maj. Perry H. Jefferson, who vanished during an observation flight 39 years ago over the jungles of South Vietnam, were at last laid to rest yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Three days of events here were a high-profile attempt to put closure to a missing-in-action mystery, but what exactly happened to the intelligence officer and his Army Reserve pilot, then-1st Lt. Arthur Ecklund, during their fateful observation flight may never be known.

A closed-casket viewing was held at a funeral home here April 1. Families, fellow servicemembers, veterans and friends to both men attended full-honors funerals April 2 and 3, which started at the Old Post Chapel on Fort Myer, Va., followed by platoon, band and caisson escorts to their gravesites on the nation's most sacred property.

Ecklund was interred at Arlington on April 2; he was previously interred in Knoxville, Ill., by his family in 2004. The Reservist attended Arizona State University and was drafted in 1966. He attended helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft training prior to his combat deployment.

More than 150 people attended Jefferson's services here, including nearly 100 from Colorado who watched the state's reported last Guard Vietnam MIA put to rest.

Jefferson was an intelligence officer at Colorado's 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron, which flew the F-100C Super Saber. He received his bachelor's degree from Southern Methodist College and worked for Aramco in the Middle East before joining the Air Guard. His wife, Sylvia, died in 1992.

Jefferson and 375 other Colorado Air Guard members deployed to Phan Rang, Vietnam, in April 1968. They were the first Air Guard fighter squadron assigned to active duty in Vietnam.

For retired Col. Don Neary, an F-100 pilot who served with Jefferson, thinking of his friend still brought up a mix of tears and happy memories of home at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., and deployed to Vietnam.

Neary said Jefferson didn't need to fly on visual reconnaissance missions from Phan Rang.

"I think what his motivation was he probably wanted to be a pilot, ... but also the aircraft was our forward air control airplane," Neary said. "I think it gave him an appreciation for us, and he went out to get that experience for when he would come in and brief us in the morning."

On April 3, 1969, 37-year-old Jefferson was flying aboard an O-1 Bird Dog observation aircraft piloted by 24-year-old Ecklund. They never returned to their base.

Defense officials said a three-day search found no evidence of a crash, and hostile forces in the area prevented other searches. Both men were listed as MIA.

"We were within a month of coming home," said Maj. Gen. John L. France in "Colorado Pride," a Colorado Air Guard history book.

France was the unit's operations officer in Vietnam and later served as Colorado's adjutant general. In the book, he shares the moments leading up to Jefferson's disappearance.

"Clyde Seiler and Don Neary were on (an F-100) mission together; Clyde got shot down and went into the jungle, ... (and with) no parachute, he didn't get out. ... Then, we lost Perry Jefferson a few days after Clyde. It was a rough time," France said.

The unit returned home in April 1969, and the Air Guard members who served at Phan Rang were immortalized later in the National Guard Heritage Series painting "Scramble at Phan Rang."

Across the nation, 22,745 Army and Air Guardsmen mobilized during the Vietnam War. More than 9,000 deployed to Vietnam.

Jefferson's and Ecklund's case remained unsolved, and there were even rumors of them being seen after the fateful flight.

After defense officials received human remains in 1984 from a suspected military crash, eyewitnesses were interviewed. One witness said the aircraft crashed on a mountainside, and that the pilots died and were buried there. An excavation led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command uncovered the aircraft's wreckage, but no human remains were found at the crash site.

In 2000, the remains turned over in 1984 were identified as Ecklund's. Defense officials said Jefferson's remains were not identified until 2007, after a Vietnamese national living in California turned them in.

The day before Jefferson's interment ceremony, visiting Colorado Guard members walked among blossoming cherry trees to the Vietnam War Memorial to lay a wreath. They also located Jefferson's name on the dark granite and took a rubbing for their military museum.

"Perry was everybody's friend. ... He took off on a normal observation run and never returned. He just vanished," France said.

The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office's Web site states "efforts continue to recover nearly 1,800 Americans who remain unaccounted for from Vietnam."

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves at the National Guard Bureau.)


jgf said...

It is never to late to honor our men in uniform and bring them home.

skip said...

Bloom called and said you are home. Just heard today, 4/15/08.

Saw Sharpley's photo on one of these sites, he looks good!

Rest well Capt. Jefferson.