Remains ID announced 08/03/07
Name: Charles Wayne Stratton
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Korat Airbase, Thailand
Date of Birth: 09 October 1940
Home City of Record: Dallas TX
Date of Loss: 03 January 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 165400N 1055300E (WD940685)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4E
Refno: 1688
Other Personnel in Incident: James H. Ayres (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1990 with the assistance
of 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 2008.
SYNOPSIS: On January 3, 1971, a flight of two aircraft departed Korat
Airbase Thailand for an operational mission over Laos. Both aircraft were
the reconnaissance version of the Phantom fighter bomber aircraft. The crew
aboard the lead aircraft was Major James H. Ayres, pilot, and Capt. Charles
W. Stratton, weapons systems officer.
During the mission, which took the flight over Savannakhet Province, Laos,
Ayres' aircraft was seen to crash and explode in a ball of fire prior to its
second pass over the target area. No parachutes were observed, and no
emergency radio beeper signals were detected. The loss occurred about 8
miles southeast of the city of Ban Muong Sen.
Ayres and Stratton are among nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos. During the
course of American involvement in the war, the Pathet Lao stated on a number
of occasions that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners and that
those captured in Laos would also be released from Laos. Unfortunately, that
release never occurred, because the U.S. did not include Laos in the
negotiations which brought American involvement in the war to an end. The
country of Laos was bombed by U.S. forces for several months following the
Peace Accords in January 1973, and Laos steadfastly refused to talk about
releasing our POWs until we discontinued bombing in their country.
After the war ended, 591 Americans were released from communist prison camps
in Southeast Asia, but NOT ONE American held in Laos was released. Even
though family members of the men still missing did their best to keep their
men's plight in the public eye, these "tens of tens" were largely forgotten.
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing in
Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government, many of them
relating to men lost in Laos. Tiny steps towards recognition of the
communist Lao government have been taken over the years, but no effort to
negotiate the freedom of any Americans still alive has been made.
In 1988, however, the U.S. agreed to "grease the wheels" for the
humanitarian construction of medical clinics to help improve U.S./Laos
relations. In return, the Lao agreed to excavate crash sites on a regular
basis. Still, no acknowledged negotiations have occurred which would free
any living American POWs in Laos. If, as thousands of reports indicate,
Americans are still alive in Indochina as captives, then the U.S. is
collaborating in signing their death warrants. It's time we found the means
to bring our men home.
NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
August 03, 2007
Media Contact: (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public/Industry(703) 428-0711
Airmen Missing in Action from Vietnam War are Identified
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced
today that the remains of two U.S. servicemen, missing in action from the
Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to their families
for burial with full military honors.
They are Lt. Col. James H. Ayres, of Pampa, Texas, and Lt. Col. Charles W.
Stratton, of Dallas, Texas, both U.S.Air Force.Ayres will be buried Aug. 10
in Pampa, and Stratton's burial date is being set by his family.
On Jan. 3, 1971, these men crewed an F-4E Phantom II aircraft departing
Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base on a nighttime strike mission of enemy
targets in Savannakhet Province, Laos.Shortly after Ayres initiated a
target run, the crew of other aircraft in the flight observed a large
explosion.No one witnessed an ejection or heard beeper signals, and
communication was lost with the aircraft.Hostile activity in the area
prevented search and rescue attempts.
In 2001, a joint U.S./Lao People's Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) team, led
by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), traveled to Savannakhet
Province and interviewed Laotian citizens about their knowledge of aircraft
crash sites.One of the men led the team to what was believed to be the
Ayres and Stratton crash site.
Later that year, another U.S./L.P.D.R team began excavating the site.The
team recovered human remains and aircrew-related items.Between 2002 and
2005, joint teams visited the site six more times to complete the
excavation, recovering more human remains and crew-related items.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence,
scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory
also used mitochondrial DNA in the identification of the remains.
For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account
for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at
or call (703) 699-1169.
   Former Celeste Resident to be buried with Honors:
         The remains of a former Celeste resident who disappeared over Laos
         more than 36 years ago while serving in the Air Force during the
         Vietnam War are to be returned to Texas.  The Department of Defense
         reports that the body of Lt. Col. Charles W. Stratton will be
         returned to Dallas for burial with full military honors......
You can read this directly from the paper at:


[shared with permission]
August 12, 2007

Dear River Rats,
I feel like you probably know this  already, but I felt I should pass
this information on personally.
On July 5th this year, my mother received word from the Mortuary 
Division of the Air Force to say that a positive match had been made
for  my father, Charles W. Stratton, during advanced DNA tests on bone
fragments  recovered from the crash site in Laos.  Positive results were
also made  for the pilot, James Ayres. (Dad was the Navigator.)
The site  had been excavated through seven or eight different trips
there between 2001  and 2005. In December 2005, my mother and I went
down to the  JPAC labs  in San Antonio, and were given the most amazing
tour and walk-through of the  evidence. (Think of a living CSI episode
and you're half-way there...) We  saw pieces of flight suits with two
different twills, and two right leg  pencil pockets, ejection seat
handles that didn't appear to be pulled,  fragments of a plane that
could only be the F-4 Phantom, two distinctly  different boot soles (one
issued only after a certain date) , etc...   All analysis  of the
recovered evidence was so thorough and compelling  that little doubt
remained--It had to be THAT plane at THAT time, at THAT  place-- and all
evidence pointed to two people aboard at time of impact.  This is so
much more than we ever thought we would have.
And then, as DNA testing advanced, we received word of the tests made
this  spring!  I think there were actually eight or nine absolute
matches to  my father's sister-- all from bone fragments not much bigger
that the 1968  penny also recovered at the site. The idea of that penny
resonates with me,  and I wonder which of the two men was carrying it
for luck. Can there be any  other reason one would have It?
Yesterday, August 10, the  remains associated with the pilot, James H.
Ayres, were buried in Pampa ,  Texas. My mother will soon go to Hawaii
to escort the remains of my father  home, as well. The remains that can
not be identified  as specifically  one of the two will be buried
together at the Dallas-Ft Worth National  Cemetery on October 9th--which
would have been my father's 67th birthday. He  is finally coming home.
Red River was always so supportive  of me through my college years that
I wanted to keep you informed as things  progressed. It is amazing news.
We, of course feel some sadness at times,  but this is all good.  The
overriding sense is celebration. We never  thought we would know much
more than his missing status from January 1971.  But here we are in 2007
, planning a real funeral.  JPAC must be  commended. We didn't pursue
this, or push it along. It resulted from their  ceaseless determination
to account for all our missing men, and their  mission to "Bring Them
Home".  For us, they succeeded with the most  amazing grace.
By sheer coincidence, I was visiting  Washington D.C. for July 4th, and
upon hearing from my mother , I was able  to revisit the Vietnam
Memorial. I have been there many times, but it was  interesting to now
see it with this new information, that he was no longer  among the
missing. I took the attached picture that day.  The  Washington Monument
is beautifully reflected in the black granite of my  father's panel, and
you can clearly read my father's name, along with Ayres'  near the top
of the picture.
It was the perfect way for me to spend  July 4th.
Thank you again for all you have done for  us.
Stephen Stratton, son of Lt. Col Charles Stratton


Date: Tue, 09 Oct 2007 17:43:17 -0500
Subject: Lt. Col. James Henry Ayres

Lt. Col. James Henry Ayres and Captain Stratton were laid to rest today at the National
Cemetery in Dallas, Tx. Their remains were identified 36 years after being shot down over 
Laos in January 1971. Thank you to everyone who has kept their memory alive.

Robin Ayres


Recovery Efforts Help Write Final Chapter For Missing Pilot's Wife

Thu, 04 Dec '08

If This Doesn't Bring A Tear To Your Eye...

Sallie Stratton always knew she wanted to write a book, but she just couldn't bring herself to put pen to paper -- until now.

It is truly a Texas-sized love story that starts nearly 50 years ago in small record store near Dallas. It chases a pilot's dream around the globe to a foreign land, turns on its end in a fiery jet crash, returns to a grief-stricken widow and three small boys, and ends in a southwestern cemetery just last year......

(Aero-News salutes Fred W. Baker III, American Forces Press Service... who in our experience has a particularly deft touch with stories like this one -- Ed.)