KELLER, WENDELL RICHARD
Remains ID announced 10/16/2012 - see below.

Name: Wendell Richard Keller
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron
Date of Birth: 19 May 1934
Home City of Record: Fargo ND
Date of Loss: 01 March 1969
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 171000N 1060400E (XD134981)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D
Other Personnel In Incident: Virgil K. Meroney (missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1991 from one or more of the
following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with
POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.
NETWORK 2012.

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS: The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served a
multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and
electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2), and
had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission type). The
F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes.
Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.

Maj. Wendell R. Keller was the pilot and 1Lt. Virgil K. Meroney was the
bombardier/navigator of an F4D Phantom assigned to the 433rd Tactical Fighter
Squadron. On March 1, 1969, the two were sent on a combat mission which took
them over Laos.

Near the Ban Karai Pass, one of several passageways in the mountains comprising
the border of Laos and Vietnam, Keller and Meroney's aircraft was hit by hostile
fire and crashed. No parachutes were seen and no emergency beeper signals were
heard. However, it was believed that both might have safely ejected the
aircraft, as they were not declared killed in action, but missing in action.

Keller and Meroney are two of nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos. Despite
numerous statements by the Pathet Lao and scores of intelligence reports
indicating that Americans were held in Laos during the war, no prisoners were
released that were held in Laos. The United States has not negotiated for the
release of those Americans held in Laos.

Although there is no substantive information that Keller and Meroney are still
alive, evidence continues to mount that some Americans are alive and held
captive. As long as even one American remains alive, held unjustly, we owe him
our best effort to bring him home.

Virgil Meroney was promoted to the rank of Captain and Wendell Keller to the
rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the period they were maintained missing.

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 824-12
October 16, 2012

Airmen Missing From Vietnam War Identified

 
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of two servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be buried, as a group, with full military honors.

Air Force Col. Wendell Keller of Fargo, N.D., and Capt. Virgil K. Meroney III of Fayetteville, Ark., will be buried as a group, in a single casket representing the crew, on Oct. 19, in Arlington National Cemetery. Meroney was interred individually on June 9, in his hometown.

On March 1, 1969, Keller and Meroney were the crew of an F-4D Phantom II aircraft that crashed while carrying out a nighttime strike mission in Khammouan Province, Laos. Nearby U.S. aircrews reported seeing the aircraft hit by enemy fire. No parachutes were seen after the aircraft was hit. Heavy enemy presence in the area prevented recovery efforts.

From 1994 to 2011, joint U.S.-Lao People's Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) teams, led by Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), conducted several investigations and excavations of the crash site in Khammouan Province, Laos. The teams located human remains, military equipment, a military identification card, and aircraft wreckage of an F-4, including an engine data plate and radio call-sign plate. During the 17 years of investigations, analysts evaluated the material evidence and the accounts of more than 40 eyewitnesses to confirm the information correlated with the crew's loss location.

To identify the remains, scientists from JPAC used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools including dental comparisons and radiograph comparisons.

Today, 1,655 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. The U.S. government continues to work closely with the governments of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to recover Americans lost during the Vietnam War.

For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1169.