Missing Oklahoma serviceman's remains identified

Monday, September 29th 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The remains of four servicemen missing in action in the Vietnam war, including one from Oklahoma, were among those identified Monday by the Department of Defense.

The remains will be returned to family members with full military honors, the Department of Defense said.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Elmer L. Holden of Oklahoma City, and the other three, were on board a HH-3 Jolly Green Giant rescue helicopter that was struck by enemy fire on June 9, 1968. The helicopter stalled and exploded before the pilot could safely land the craft.

U.S. officials have been searching for the men and had conducted several investigations of crash sites.

In 2002, a team of investigators uncovered the helicopter wreckage and materials that linked the site to the crash of the Jolly Green Giant. Human remains were excavated earlier this year and were later identified by the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii.

The remains were those of Holden; the pilot, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Jack C. Rittichier, of Barberton, Ohio; the co-pilot, U.S. Air Force Capt. Richard Yeend Jr., Mobile, Ala. and U.S. Air Force Sgt. James D. Locker, of Sidney, Ohio.

Rittichier was the only Coast Guardsman missing in action during the Vietnam War.

About 1,800 Americans remain missing in action from the Vietnam War.

Earlier this year the United States, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos agreed to meet to discuss working together to locate and repatriate soldiers listed as missing in action.

Vietnam estimates up to 300,000 of its communist soldiers remain unaccounted for. A count has never been given for missing South Vietnamese forces who sided with the United States.

The countries will meet in Bangkok, Thailand, in October to discuss a collaborative effort to locate the mission.

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