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Mystery of Vietnam Veteran Finally Solved 52 Years After He Went Missing

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A 50-year mystery has finally been solved after the remains of a Vietnam Veteran were identified.

Navy Commander James B. Mills was assigned to fly a reconnaissance mission on the border in between North and South Vietnam with a pilot named James Bauder on the night of September 21, 1966.



It was his first mission on his second tour.

“During the mission, the other aircraft lost contact with Mills’ aircraft, and his plane did not return to the ship,” the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said. “No missiles or anti-aircraft artillery were observed in the target area and no explosions were seen. An extensive search was conducted with negative results. Based on this information, Mills was declared missing in action.”

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His family back in Bakersville, California never heard any definite news of their loved one despite the multiple investigations the military conducted. In fact 15 different investigations were conducted in between 1993 and 2003, but none of them provided any answers.

“We never had any knowledge, we had no knowledge. Just had a blank slate of uncertainty,” Ann Mills-Griffiths, Mills’ sister, told KGET.

In 2006 investigators began to believe that the crash site was underwater. After five different underwater searches, they finally found and identified the wreckage of the Bauder/Mills aircraft in 2011.

Once the crash was positively identified, Underwater Recovery Teams from DPAA dived to the site to extract items. In 2017, human remains were found that were later identified as Bauder’s.

Because of the tides, that area of the sea where the plane wreckage was located could only be searched once a year. When URT went back, they finally found remains that matched the DNA samples given to them by Mills’ family over five decades earlier.

“Almost 52 years later, they found a rib in his wreckage, they found DNA supplied by my mom and grandmother many, many years ago to make that identification, which allows my family after 52 years to have that closure,” Tab Tabor, Mills’ nephew, told KGET.

Mills’ remains have been returned to American soil and funeral arrangements at Arlington Cemetery have been arranged for June 2019.

His alma mater, Bakersville High School, will also recognize the veteran on August 31, 2018 — what would’ve been his 78th birthday.

Ken Hooper, a teacher at the school, said that Mills’ story has never been forgotten there. A tree was planted in his memory that has grown since his disappearance.

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“Here on campus, we have the distinguished privilege of having a memorial plaque that was dedicated in his honor,” he said. “We have been following him to see if his body is going to be recovered, and people have been waiting for this moment for years and years and years, and it’s a very humbling moment to see that he’s finally coming home.”

Hooper also said that his students will pass out American flags and share Mills’ incredible story with others.


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Now that his sister has that closure, she reminisces on her brother’s “outgoing” personality. “He was a character. Very popular, very outgoing,” she said.

Since his disappearance, Mills-Griffiths started a non-profit called the National League of POW/MIA Families. According to their website, the non-profit’s mission is “to obtain the release of all prisoners, the fullest possible accounting for the missing ​and repatriation of all recoverable remains of those who died serving our nation during the Vietnam War.”

She said, “I believe the U.S., and every country for that matter, has an obligation to the people they send into combat … and should do their very best to bring them home dead or alive.”

Mills-Griffiths will continue to fight for others to get the same kind of closure that her family just received.

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
Birthplace
Tennessee
Honors/Awards
Lifetime Member of the Girl Scouts
Location
Arizona
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
News, Crime, Lifestyle & Human Interest




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