Ground troops from Echo Company, 2/3 Marines, reached the site of the crash on 25 March, retrieving human remains, dog tags and other identification. Additional search parties went back on 26 April, 24 June, and 3 July, and on each occasion retrieved additional remains and identifying materials. The last search party demolished the remaining wreckage prior to their departure.
That much is agreed - but the number of servicemen aboard the aircraft still is an open question. One of the men aboard was a civilian war photographer for Newsweek, Robert Ellison. Ellison had graduated from the Western Military Academy, and that school's newspaper had articles about his life and death in March 1968 and May 1969:
"He was returning to Khe Sanh in a plane with 48 Marines when it was hit by enemy ground fire and crashed in flames."
"He was covering the siege of Khe Sanh for Newsweek in South Viet Nam when he was killed on March 6, 1968, with 48 Marines when their plane was shot down by enemy fire."However, the viethero.com site says that
"On March 6th, 1968 a C-123 aircraft was shot down as it was trying to land at Khe Sanh Combat Base. All 44 passengers and the crew of three were killed when the plane crashed."and Chris Hobson's "Vietnam Air Losses" says that
"All 49 on board, including the five crew, 44 US Marines, and a civilian photographer, were killed in the crash."The Plane Crash Info site agrees with Hobson as to casualties - 4 crewmen and 45 passengers - but while Hobson says the aircraft was hit in the port turbojet the Plane Crash site says it was "hit in the right turbine".
As noted above, the C-123 is the only 6 Mar 68 fixed-wing loss in South Vietnam which resulted in casualties, yet the casualty data base contains 56 records for servicemen who died in Quang Tri Province on 06 Mar 1968 as the result of a fixed-wing aircraft shootdown. Of the 56, there are 6 USAF personnel (four coded as aircrew and two as passengers), 49 Marines, and one Navy Corpsman. It is possible that some of the casualties are miscoded or that they died in the crash of a VNAF aircraft, but those possibilities seem remote.
The viethero.com site says "Only 19 of the 47 aboard could be identified. The remains of the rest were buried here at Jefferson Barracks near Saint Louis." If there were only 47 men on board and 19 were identifed, why does the Jefferson Barracks memorial list 34 military personnel and one civilian? Two men known to be aboard the aircraft (USAF Sergeants Noel L. Rios and William F Anselmo, passengers) are listed as "Body not recovered".
If we start with 57 men on board - the 56 servicemen recorded in the casualty database and the civilian Robert Ellison - the numbers come closer to working out properly:
Those marked with an asterisk were interred in a common grave (Plot 81 0 327-329) on 23 Nov 1968. One other, PFC James O. Taylor of St. Louis, rests at Jefferson Barracks; he was buried in Plot E 0 375 on 17 Sep 1968.
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