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The Killing Season - Websleuths

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  1. #1
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    Jan 2004
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    The Search for Spooky 21

    The Search for Spooky 21: A long-ago war, a missing plane, an enduring mystery

    Part one of a three-part series on the search for Spooky 21

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/05/2...l#.UaTJVSnD9jo

    TA-OY, Laos -- Maj. Derrell Jeffords bounced his roaring Spooky 21 down and off the runway at Da Nang Air Base in Vietnam. It was just before 7:30 a.m., on Christmas Eve 1965. The big camouflaged belly of his twin-prop AC-47 was easily visible against a blue sky as he banked west.

    The cargo plane-turned-gunship was on its way to Laos; its mission was top secret.

    Jeffords put the South China Sea at his back and the plane lumbered over a landscape mimicking the twists and folds of an unmade bed. The flight plan showed that he and his five-member crew would be returning to base in under six hours. Back in time for a late lunch.

    But that was without complications, and this was the Vietnam War.

    Just over halfway through what had been up to that point an uneventful flight, at 10:56 a.m., two U.S. planes in the area picked up a UHF radio broadcast:

    “Mayday, Spooky 21. Mayday.”

    Then the plane disappeared, swallowed up in the dense green foliage of the Southeast Asian jungle.

    This is a story of that flight, and the nearly half-century it took to find and bring home its six crew members. Guiding that effort through all those years was the pledge that those who go into battle make to each other: No matter what, we will come back for you. You will not be forgotten.

    You will not be left behind.............
    Last edited by Reader; 05-28-2013 at 11:19 AM.


    "The further we (as the human race) grow away from the natural world, the quieter the natural world becomes and the more pathological we become as a culture."........Bernie Krause

    The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation......which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.......George Washington

  2. #2
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    Jan 2004
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    Lack of answers tests the faith and mettle of families and searchers alike

    Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/05/2...#storylink=cpy

    TA-OY, Laos — In military lingo, the location of the lost crew of Spooky 21 was a classic SWAG:

    Scientific Wild-Ass Guess.

    That’s the term investigators use for figuring out something as unpredictable as where a plane should have crashed when it got shot out of the sky.

    Guesswork, backed up by some old data, was pretty much all the military had to go on for years in the hunt for the cargo plane-turned-gunship and its crew of six that disappeared over Laos during a Christmas Eve combat mission in 1965.

    It wasn’t until 1995, decades after the Vietnam War had ended, that a military team scouring a rice paddy in southeastern Laos found a small amount of wreckage that could have been from the plane. But the crash site was more than 70 miles from where they’d expected to find it.

    The Air Force crew that had manned Spooky 21 had long ago been declared dead. But there never had been anything definitive. Without some evidence of the plane or the missing airmen, their families would continue to seesaw between faint hope and heartbreak..............

    Guiding their work was a sacred military trust and the motto of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, known as JPAC, to not stop looking for troops lost on the battlefield “until they are home.”

    In the case of Spooky 21, that meant pursuing the fates of men who’d been missing so long they’d now been promoted: Col. Derrell Jeffords, pilot, 40, of Florence, S.C.; Col. Joseph Christiano, navigator, 43, of Rochester, N.Y.; Lt. Col. Dennis L. Eilers, co-pilot, 27, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Chief Master Sgts. William K. Colwell, 44, of Glen Cove, N.Y.; Arden K. Hassenger, 32, of Lebanon, Ore.; and Larry C. Thornton, 33, of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

    Such searches were commonplace in Laos. More than 330 U.S. troops disappeared there during the Vietnam War. In its dense jungles and steep hills, even finding a site worth searching was difficult...........

    Sherrie Hassenger met her husband in 1954 back in Lebanon, Ore. She was 17 and more than a little nervous when her brother-in-law gave her phone number to his friend, Arden Hassenger.

    He was older, and home on leave from the Air Force. She was still in high school. When he called, he reinforced her fears: His easy, friendly manner meant forward and eager. She knew what boys like that wanted.

    But as she tried to figure a way to end the phone call, he cheerfully said, “Why are we talking on the phone? I want to see you.”

    “You can’t. I just washed my hair.”

    “Oh, I don’t mind a little wet hair.”

    So before he showed up, Sherrie stuck her head under a faucet.

    “I can’t have him thinking I’m a liar,” she recalls thinking.

    During the next 11 years, they’d marry and have two boys and a girl. She’d move with him to Topeka, Kan., where he’d be trained as a gunner for this new style of warfare they were trying out with the old C-47 cargo plane. She followed him down to Florida just months before he left for Vietnam late in 1965.

    Digging for closure

    Sherrie had never remarried. She spent those years waiting for him to return. Sadness was a frequent companion. But she still could smile, remembering how their romance began with wet hair..........


    "The further we (as the human race) grow away from the natural world, the quieter the natural world becomes and the more pathological we become as a culture."........Bernie Krause

    The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation......which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.......George Washington

  3. #3
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    Jan 2004
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    After decades of searching, could a handful of debris provide the answer?

    Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/05/2...#storylink=cpy

    [link also has an interactive and several videos]

    ARLINGTON, Va. — Nearly half a century passed before the suspected remains of six airmen made the journey from a rice paddy in southeastern Laos to a forensics lab near Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

    But once those remains arrived, the experts preparing to study and identify them knew that at best the men were only halfway home.

    Getting them all the way would be a challenge. ...........


    The remains of six airmen shot down over Laos are interred in a single casket. The men were lost December 24, 1965, and their remains were finally recovered in 2010 and 2011. They were buried with full military honors at Arlington.


    "The further we (as the human race) grow away from the natural world, the quieter the natural world becomes and the more pathological we become as a culture."........Bernie Krause

    The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation......which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.......George Washington

  4. #4
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    Jan 2008
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    695