Unidentified Remains Repatriated In 1989
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO)
announced Wednesday the remains of a US 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 Lt. Col. Alton C. Rockett, Jr., US Air Force, of
Birmingham, AL. Rockett will be buried Monday in Arlington National
Cemetery near Washington, DC.
On June 2, 1967, Rockett and his co-pilot, Capt. Daniel L.
Carrier, crewed the number two aircraft in a flight of two F-4Cs
flying an armed reconnaissance mission over Quang Binh Province,
North Vietnam. During their bomb run, anti-aircraft ground fire was
observed, but Rockett reported that his aircraft was not hit. When
the lead aircraft completed its bomb run, the flight leader told
Rockett to return to base, but moments later, he saw a large
fireball in his rear-view mirror.
He made several radio calls to Rockett, but did not hear or see
anything from the aircraft. Due to the dangerous location, there
were no further search and rescue attempts.
In June and July 1989, Vietnamese officials repatriated to the
United States sets of remains of US servicemembers. The officials
also supplied documents identifying that three of the sets of
remains were those of Rockett, Carrier and another serviceman, Col.
Samuel C. Maxwell.
It was later discovered that the name associations among those
remains had been confused. In October and November 1989, Maxwell
and Carrier were identified after further analysis, but the third
set of remains could not be attributed to Rockett at that time.
In 1993, a joint US/Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) team,
led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), investigated
the incident and interviewed witnesses.One Vietnamese citizen said
that Rockett and Carrier were buried near the crash site, but that
their remains were exhumed in 1978 by Vietnamese officials.
In 2001, another joint US/S.R.V. team re-interviewed witnesses
and surveyed the burial and crash sites. Small pieces of airplane
wreckage were found at the crash site. In 2003, a maternal-line
mitochondrial DNA reference sample for Rockett was obtained.
In 2006, another joint US/S.R.V. team excavated the burial
sites, but recovered no human remains.
Using forensic identification tools, circumstantial evidence and
mitochondrial DNA, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA
Identification Laboratory identified Rockett's remains, which were
those previously repatriated to the United States in 1989.