Vietnam War Flyer ID'd
Veteran's Day 2006 also signals the return of another of our
brethren to his home. The Department of Defense POW/Missing
Personnel Office has announced that the remains of a U.S. Air Force
officer missing in action from the Vietnam War have been
The remains of Col. Charles J. Scharf are being returned to his
family for burial with full military honors. His funeral is Nov. 30
at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
Colonel Scharf, from San Diego, and a fellow crewmember took off
in their F-4C Phantom II from Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in
Thailand Oct. 1, 1965, to attack an enemy concentration and a major
highway in North Vietnam. After the lead aircraft developed
problems en route, Colonel Scharf assumed the lead of the two other
F-4s in the flight.
After he completed two bombing runs, Colonel Scharf's aircraft
was hit by enemy fire. His "mayday" radio transmission of was heard
by the other two aircraft. One of those aircraft returned a radio
call to the colonel, "Gator 3, you're on fire, you'd better get
out! Bail out, Gator 3!" Colonel Scharf's plane began to
disintegrate and a parachute was seen leaving the aircraft.
The other two aircraft lost sight of the parachute and circled
the area where Colonel Scharf's aircraft had crashed and burned for
about 10 minutes, but no radio or visual contact was made then nor
in subsequent aerial search and rescue operations.
In January 1990, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam provided
information to U.S. officials indicating two men were buried near
their crash site, but that one had been washed away during
flooding. Within a month, a joint U.S.-S.R.V. team, led by the
Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, interviewed three witnesses to
the crash and located scattered wreckage at the site.
The 1992 excavation of that site yielded human remains, a dental
prosthesis, and numerous personal effects including the rank
insignia of Colonel Scharf's fellow crewman. A second joint
excavation in 1993 recovered additional artifacts, but no
A third excavation in 2004 recovered additional evidence
including pilot life-support artifacts, a metal captain's insignia
-- Colonel Scharf's rank at the time -- and a plastic denture
Among dental records and other forensic tools and circumstantial
evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA
Identification Laboratory also attempted to use mitochondrial DNA
from a known maternal relative to establish the identification.
However, tests were inconclusive.
From Colonel Scharf's widow, they obtained a number of envelopes
containing letters he had sent to her during the war. AFDIL
specialists were able to extract mitochondrial DNA from the gummed
adhesive on those envelopes, and JPAC was able to confirm the
identification. JPAC's detailed analysis of the debris and other
evidence concluded that the parachute sighted was the F-4C's drag