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Crew Shot Down 47 Years Ago Buried At Arlington Today

The remains of six Airmen whose plane was shot down over Laos in 1965 were buried in a single casket today at Arlington National Cemetery.

According to the Department of Defense, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command scientists identified the men recently using dental records and "circumstantial evidence."

The Department of the Defense reports:

On Dec. 24, 1965, the crew was aboard an AC-47D aircraft nicknamed “Spooky” that failed to return from a combat strike mission in southern Laos.

After a “mayday” signal was sent, all contact was lost with the crew. Following the crash, two days of search efforts for the aircraft and crew were unsuccessful.

The crew was reported missing in action.

The Airmen were identified as:

  • Air Force Col. Joseph Christiano of Rochester, New York
  • Col. Derrell B. Jeffords of Florence, South Carolina
  • Lt. Col. Dennis L. Eilers of Cedar Rapids, Iowa;
  • Chief Master Sgt. William K. Colwell of Glen Cove, New York
  • Chief Master Sgt. Arden K. Hassenger of Lebanon, Oregon
  • Chief Master Sgt. Larry C. Thornton of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

They were buried with full military honors.

The widow of Col. Derrill B. Jeffords, 86-year-old Jeanne Jeffords, lives in Temecula. She told the Associated Press that her her children, who accompanied her to the Arlington burial, were just teenagers when their father died:

"I've lived with it for so long, I'm all teared out... For all these years we just had a list of names."

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