PEARCE, EDWIN JACK Remains Returned 01 March 1986 - not accepted by family DNA ID accepted 2009. A private burial was held on September 20, 2008, C/M Sgt. was buried with full military honors. A public remembrance was held in May of 2009 at DVES. Group burial scheduled 06/17/2010 Arlington, 3 pm
Name: Edwin Jack Pearce Rank/Branch: E5/US Air Force Unit: 16th Special Operations Squadron, Ubon Airfield, Thailand Date of Birth: 08 December 1947 Home City of Record: Milford PA Date of Loss: 29 March 1972 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 163900N 1060600E (XD165414) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: AC130A Refno: 1807
Other Personnel In Incident: Barclay Young; Howard Stephenson; James Caniford; Curtis D. Miller; Robert Simmons; Henry Brauner (all missing); Edward Smith; Richard Halpin; Irving Ramsower; Richard Castillo; Charles Wanzel; Merlyn Paulson; William Todd; (remains returned)
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 1998 with material from the Siegel's. 2010.
REMARKS: NO PARA - NO RAD CNTCT - SAR NEGA
SYNOPSIS: On the night of March 29, 1972, an AC130A Hercules "Spectre" gunship departed Ubon Airfield, Thailand on a night reconnaissance mission over supply routes used by North Vietnamese forces in Laos. The crew of the aircraft consisted of pilots Maj. Irving B. Ramsower II and 1Lt. Charles J. Wanzel III, the navigator, Maj. Henry P. Brauner, and crew members Maj. Howard D. Stephenson, Capt. Curtis D. Miller, Capt. Barclay B. Young, Capt. Richard Castillo, Capt. Richard C. Halpin, SSgt. Merlyn L. Paulson, SSgt. Edwin J. Pearce, SSgt. Edward D. Smith Jr., SSgt. James K. Caniford; and Airmen First Class William A. Todd and Robert E. Simmons.
As the aircraft was in the jungle foothills 56 miles east of Savannakhet in southern Laos, it was shot down by a Russian Surface to Air Missile (SAM). U.S. government sources stated in February 1986 that a fighter escort plane reported that the aircraft crashed in a fireball, no parachutes were seen, nor was radio contact made with the AC130 or any of its crew. In 1972, however, the Pearce family was told that an F4 support plane traveling with the AC130 heard "so many beepers they couldn't count them" and that the emergency beeper type carried by the crew could only be activated manually. The Pearce family took this as strong proof that a number of the crew survived. The support aircraft plane left the area to refuel. When it returned, there were no signs of life.
The inscribed wedding band of Curtis Miller was recovered by a reporter and returned to Miller's family. The existence of the ring suggests to Miller's mother that the plane did not burn, and gives her hope that he survived.
A May 1985 article appearing in a Thai newspaper stated that the bodies of Simmons and Wanzel were among 5 bodies brought to the base camp of Lao Liberation forces. The same article reported a group of 21 Americans still alive, held prisoner at a camp in Khammouane Province, Laos. At about this same time, Simmons' dog tag was mailed anonymously to the U.S. Embassy in Laos. FBI tests failed to show fire residue on the tag, proving to the Simmons family that Skeeter did not die in the explosion and go down in the fiery crash.
The U.S. and Laos excavated this aircraft's crash site in February 1986. The teams recovered a limited number of human bone fragments, personal effects and large pieces of plane wreckage. It was later announced by the U.S. Government that the remains of Castillo, Halpin, Ramsower, Simmons, Todd, Paulson, Pearce, Wanzel and Smith had been positively identified from these bone fragments.
In a previous excavation at Pakse, Laos in 1985, remains recovered were positively identified as the 13 crew members, although independent examiners later proved that only 2 of those identifications were scientifically possible. The U.S. Government has acknowledged the errors made in identification on two of the men, but these two individuals are still considered "accounted for".
Because of the identification problems of the first excavation, the families of the Savannakhet AC130 have carefully considered the information given them about their loved ones. The families of Robert Simmons and Edwin Pearce have actively resisted the U.S. Government's identification, which is in both cases based on a single tooth. These families do not know if their men are alive or dead, but will insist that the books are kept open until proof dictates that there is no longer any hope for their survival.
In January 1991, a federal judge ruled that when the Simmons family collected death benefits for Skeeter, they lost the right to question whether he was dead. They have continued to fight a positive identification based on a single tooth. The Assistant U.S. Attorney, William H. Pease, added that the court has no jurisdiction over military identification of remains.
Nearly 600 Americans were lost in Laos during the Vietnam war, and many were known to have survived their loss incident. However, the U.S. did not negotiate with Laos for these men, and consequently, not one American held in Laos has ever been released.
On August 11th, 1998 the NETWORK received a note from friends of the Pearce family, the Siegel's - in part it stated:
Did you know that Jack's father was a prisoner of war in World War II for more than two years? Dealing with Jack's loss is still as painful now as it was nearly thirty years ago. What a very sad story. Age and illness do not allow for painful discussions or alot of public activity with this issue. His two brothers were in Vietnam the same time as him, but they returned unharmed and he is still missing in Laos... although the government does not agree that he is missing.
The Pearce's surround themselves with wonderful grandchildren and maintain a low-key silent vigil of hope. They find it hard to believe that the fate of so many are still unresolved so many years later.
From: Spectre533@aol.com Date: Mon, 1 Jul 2002 03:05:39 EDT Subject: Edwin J Pearce
Read your Bio on Jack Pearce. He was one of my best friends as we were stationed together on choppers and the AC-130. I was probably one of the last to see him alive. I had just finished a mission and Jack and his crew were flying the aircraft we had used. I told Jack to keep his chute handy because we had 2 SAMS shot at us and they were going to the same area we had just left. I used to correspond with Jack's family, but have not heard from them in a long time. Hope all is well for them.
James W. Spier 16th SOS Ubon 1968-72
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