The DoD POW/Missing Personnel Office
(DPMO) has announced that the remains of two U.S. Army
officers, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been
identified and returned to their families for burial with full
They are Col. Sheldon J. Burnett of Pelham, N.H., and Warrant
Officer Randolph J. Ard of West Pensacola, Fla. Burnett is to be
buried in Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday. Ard was buried
last month in Alabama.
On March 7, 1971, Ard flew his OH-58A “Kiowa”
helicopter from South Vietnam to transport three passengers,
including Burnett, to an area on the Vietnam-Laos border. As the
helicopter approached a landing zone, it was hit by enemy
antiaircraft fire and crashed in Savannakhet Province, Laos. Two of
the passengers survived the crash and evaded capture as enemy
forces attacked. When they reached friendly lines, the two reported
that Burnett and Ard were still alive but badly injured.
After 11 days of heavy resistance, South Vietnamese ground
forces reached the crash site but found no trace of the missing men
or any graves.
Between 1989 and 1996, joint U.S.-Lao teams, led by the Joint
POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) conducted five separate field
investigations which met with negative results. Then in 2002, U.S.
specialists interviewed four former North Vietnamese soldiers,
three of which had seen the bodies of the two unaccounted-for U.S.
officers. The fourth soldier had drawn a sketch of the area shortly
after the incident and all volunteered to assist U.S. investigators
In 2003, the four Vietnamese witnesses and local Lao villagers
guided the team to the crash site in Laos where they found some
aircraft wreckage but no human remains. Then in Aug.-Sept. 2004,
JPAC and Lao specialists excavated the crash site and two nearby
graves where they found human remains, U.S. military clothing and
personal effects, including Ard’s identification tag.
After extensive analysis of the remains and teeth recovered
during the excavation, JPAC scientists identified both Ard and
Of the 88,000 Americans missing in action from all conflicts,
1,836 are from the Vietnam War, with 375 of those within the
country of Laos. Another 747 Americans have been accounted for
since the end of the Vietnam War.