The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Air Force Maj. Neal C. Ward, 23, of College Station, Texas, killed during the Vietnam War, was accounted for July 19, 2019.
(This identification was initially published July 26, 2019.)
In June 1969, Ward was a pilot assigned to the 602nd Special Operations Squadron. On June 13, 1969, Ward was piloting an A-1H aircraft as the lead in a flight of two on an armed reconnaissance mission in northern Laos. Both aircraft made four bombing runs on a target, after which Ward started a strafing run. His wingman followed but broke off when he could not complete his run without entering the clouds. During his recovery, the wingman saw automatic weapons muzzle flashes coming from the target area, followed immediately by a large fire and explosion. The wingman could not make contact with Ward and did not observe a parachute or hear any distress calls. The wingman made a pass over the target area and saw debris, but was unable to identify it as aircraft wreckage. Because of hostile enemy activity, a ground search could not be conducted. On June 20, 1978, the Department of the Air Force changed Ward’s status to deceased.
Between 1993 and 2008, joint U.S./Lao People’s Democratic Republic teams investigated a crash site allegedly associated with Ward’s loss, recommending it for excavation. The site was excavated and teams recovered possible human remains and personal items. The remains were sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis.
To identify Ward’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as material and circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
DPAA is grateful to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic for their cooperation in this effort.
Today, 1,587 American servicemen and civilians remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. Ward’s name is engraved on the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, and the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with others who are unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.