DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
UNITED STATES ARMY CENTRAL IDENTIFICATION LABORATORY, HAWAII
310 WORCHESTER AVENUE,
AFB, HAWAII 96853-5530
17 July 2000
MEMORANDUM THRU S-3, U.S. Army
Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii
FOR Commander, U.& Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii
SUBJECT: Search and Recovery Report 2000/CIL/029, An A-1H Aircraft Crash Site believed to be associated with
REFNO 0489, Nghia Phu Village, Nghia Dan District, Nghe An Province, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, 27 April through 16 May
1. BACKGROUND (Enclosure 1):
a. This case (REFNO 0489) involves the loss of an A-1H aircraft shot down during
an armed reconnaissance mission over northern Vietnam on 8 October 1966, resulting in one unaccounted-for individual. The
pilot, LT John A. FELDHUAS is unaccounted for and is currently carried in the status of dead, body not recovered.
b. From 26 June through 4 July 1998, during the 51St Joint Field Activity (JFA), a joint United States/Socialist Republic
of Vietnam (U.S ./S.R.V.) team conducted an excavation of an aircraft crash site believed to be associated with REFNO 0489
near Nghia Phu Village, Nghia Dan District, Nghe An Province, S.R.V. The team opened three out of 12 5-x-5-meter units and
closed none. The team recovered numerous pieces of aircraft wreckage and two pieces of life support equipment. Excavation
at the site was suspended on 4 July 1998 due to rain and poor field conditions.
c. From 28 February through 18
March2000, during the 59th JFA, a joint U.S./S.R.V. team continued excavation of the REFNO 0489 site. The team opened 14 out
of 29 gridded 4-x-4-meter units and closed one. The team recovered numerous pieces of aircraft wreckage, multiple pieces of
life support, two personal effects, and possible human remains. In addition, the team excavated to sterile soil one 2-x-2-meter
unit approximately 10 meters west of the site datum with negative findings. Excavation at the site was suspended on 18 March
2000 due to time constraints at the close of the JFA.
2. PROJECT AREA (Enclosures 3-4):
a. Legal location: Vicinity of Nghia Phu Village, Nghia Dan District, Nghe An
b. Grid coordinate: 48Q WG 59492/44009 determined by a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver tracking
c. Topographic map: Title: Phong Bai; Edition: 2-AMS; Series: L7014; Sheet: 6147 IV; Scale: 1:50,000;
Horizontal Datum: Indium Datum, 1960.
3. DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT AREA (Enclosure 7: Photographs 1-18):
a. To access the project area believed to be associated
with REFNO 0489, the team traveled by vehicle for approximately one hour from a guesthouse in Nghia Dan followed by a five-minute
walk. The project area is located in a cultivated sugar cane field. It should be noted that the project area had been filled
in, cultivated and replanted with sugar cane between the 59th and 60th JFA leaving very little evidence of past excavations.
Directly adjacent to the project area on the west side are three bomb craters. Surrounding the site on all four sides are
cultivated bills of sugar cane, corn and peanuts.
b. Soil stratigraphy of the project area consists of a rich orange-brown
topsoil of approximately 20 centimeters above a layer of darker orange-brown silty clay of variable depth. Within this stratum
is a distinct gravel layer which is present throughout the site in all undisturbed areas. Beneath this layer is reddish-brown
shale bedrock of variable depth which is sterile.
4. FIELD METHODS:
a. The 51th JFA team re-interviewed two primary witnesses that were interviewed by the Investigative
Element (IE) during the 43rd JFA. Both witnesses stated that they heard firing from a local anti-aircraft unit and saw the
aircraft impact straight down (90 degrees) into the ground, explode and catch fire; this created an impact crater ranging
in depth from three to five meters and approximately 20 meters in circumference. Both witnesses also recounted that a left
human forearm with a watch was recovered by a member of the anti-aircraft artillery unit. They did not know the disposition
of these remains. The witnesses had no knowledge of any other human remains or personal effects being recovered during local
scavenging operations of the site. After the interview, each witness was asked to place a wooden stake where they believed
the center of the impact crater was located.
b. The site had been extensively scavenged and the impact crater had been
allegedly backfilled with dirt from the surrounding area, therefore there was no apparent surface distribution of aircraft
wreckage or a noticeable impact crater observed. A metal detector sweep of the area was conducted and all metal detector signals
were pinflagged. Due to inclement weather, the team was only able to partially excavate an approximate 15-x-2-meter trench.
The team recovered numerous pieces of aircraft wreckage and two pieces of life-support equipment. The site was recommended
for further excavation.
c. During the 59th JFA, the team re-interviewed the same two primary witnesses. Both witnesses
were consistent with earlier statements and further confirmed the existence of bomb craters to the west of the site prior
to the crash. The team later re-interviewed one- of the original witnesses, as well as a third witness, to confirm new information
about scavenging of the site by the people from Hue in 1981 or 1982. In addition, during excavation of the site the team received
information from a fourth witness who claimed he recovered and re-interred remains to the west of the site.
Based on the distribution of metal signals, the findings from the 5lth lEA, and witness information, the team placed a 20-x-12
meter archaeological grid around the identified impact crater. Due to the recovery of possible human remains during excavation,
the recovery leader expanded the grid. In addition, the team placed one 2-x-2-meter unit approximately 10 meters west of the
main project area to investigate witness fours claim that he buried possible human remains in that area less than a meter
deep. The team excavated the grid, located on the northwest rim of a bomb crater, down to one meter below ground surface with
negative results. The team opened 14 4-x-4-meter grid units and closed one. Human remains were recovered from between four
and eight meters to the south of the impact crater. All human remains were recovered approximately 10-20 centimeters (cm)
below ground surface within the topsoil stratum. Two personal effects were recovered from within the impact crater at a depth
of approximately 80-100 cm below ground surface. Two general-purpose low drag bombs (500 lb) were partially excavated two
meters southwest of the center of the impact crater. The bombs were nose down and approximately 18 inches apart. The bombs
were left in place and the Nghe An Province officials were notified of their location for later removal and disposal by the
S.R.V. government. Excavation was not completed by the end of the lEA and further excavation was recommended.
The project area was completely backfilled, cultivated and replanted with sugarcane during the approximate one month down
between the 59th and 60th JFA. In addition, the Vietnamese had removed and allegedly detonated the two 500 lb bombs discovered
and left in place during the 59th JFA. Due to the backfilling of the entire project area, the extent of disturbance caused
by removing the bombs was unknown prior to beginning excavation on the 60 JFA. A remnant of the southeast corner from the
59 JFA excavation was still visible. The 59th JFA team left no permanent datum marker, therefore the southeast corner was
used to build the north-south and east-west baseline for the 60th JFA excavation. A grid system was put in place that fully
encompassed and expanded to the north, east and south on the project area defined during the 59th JFA. The expansion of the
project area was necessitated in some locations by the recovery of human remains and life support during the 59th JFA. The
southwest corner (N500/E500) was designated the project area datum. During the excavation, walls of the 59th JFA were revealed
and it was possible to map the exact overlay of the two excavations. The grid units were found to be off approximately 40
centimeters north-south and 70 centimeters east-west.
f. The explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technician conducted
a metal detector sweep of the project area. Based on the crater definition established during the 59th JFA, the area where
the second wing would most probably be located was concentrated on in attempts of locating any additional 500-lb ordnance.
Several strong hits were obtained in this area. It should be noted that the project area soil has inclusions of manganese
and iron that were also picked up by the metal detector and compounded the detection process.
g. With the aid of
local laborers, the project area was excavated using shovels, pickaxes, hoes and trowels stripping the ground to culturally
sterile soil. All excavated soil was screened through quarter-inch (1/4) wire mesh. U.S. team members examined the contents
of each screen. The Anthropologist/Recovery Leader inspected all materials believed to be osseous m origin. The Life Support
Technician (LST) examined all recovered aircraft materials, and retained for further analysis all life support equipment and
significant aircraft wreckage.
h. The team photographer photographed the site prior to, during and upon completion
of the project
5. ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDINGS:
a. During the 51th JFA, approximately 30 square meters were excavated. The team did
not recover any human remains or personal effects. They recovered fragments of life-support equipment at a depth of approximately
40 centimeters below the ground surface and numerous unidentifiable fragments of aircraft wreckage at various depths. The
material evidence recovered by the team was not conclusive as to the type of aircraft or if there was anyone in the aircraft
at the time of impact.
b. During the 59th JFA, approximately 220 square meters were excavated. The team recovered
multiple human remains from approximately 10-20 cm below ground surface. Two personal effects were rcovered at a depth of
approximately 80-100 cm below ground surface from within the impact crater. All fragments of bone were recovered from within
the topsoil stratum in an area between one and eight meters south of the impact crater. Analysis of recovered life-support
materials and aircraft wreckage identified the crash site as an A-ill aircraft and indicated that at least one person was
in the aircraft at the time of impact.
c. Approximately 288 square meters were excavated to culturally sterile
soil during the 60th JFA. Human skeletal and dental remains were recovered. The dental remains were recovered from within
the impact crater boundaries at a depth of approximately 1.1 meters. The skeletal remains were recovered from within the topsoil
stratum, at a depth of approximately 20 cm, in close proximity to where human remains were recovered during the 59th JFA approximately
eight meters south of the impact crater. Analysis of recovered life-support materials and aircraft wreckage were consistent
with an A-i aircraft, but could not be correlated to a specific model or the aircraft involved in the REFNO 0489 incident.
The recovery of life preserver or raft material further supported the 59~ JFA assessment that at least one individual was
in the aircraft at the time of impact.
d. No additional 500-lb ordnance was discovered during the 60th JFA. It
should be noted that according to witness testimony the aircraft approached from the east and impacted in an almost vertical
manner. The last transmission from the aircraft was that the right wing was on fire. The orientation of the crash crater and
the location of the ordnance discovered on the 59th JFA (southwest aspect of the impact crater) would be indicative of a left
wing and the second wing (presumably northeast aspect of the impact crater) would therefore be configured as the right. It
is my opinion that the ordnance were either scavenged or possibly detonated at the time of impact.
6. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
a. The area of excavation is associated with the loss of one U.S. service
member, LT John A. FELDHAUS, the pilot of an A-1H aircraft. No exclusive association with the REFNO 0489 individual has been
made based upon material evidence recovered from the project area during any of the three excavations.
recovered life-support items are consistent with one individual being aboard the aircraft at the time of impact.
c. Multiple human remains and one restored tooth were recovered from the project area.
d. Possible personal
effects recovered from the project area include a 1964 U.S. dime and an Air Force unit crest believed to be from Attack Squadron
e. Excavation was completed on 16 May 2000 and the site was subsequently closed. No further excavation
of this site is recommended.