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South Texas Living

Remains of four Vietnam War MIAs buried at Arlington

Remains of four Vietnam War MIAs buried at Arlington
William Braxton Jackson of Stockdale among four U.S. Navy sailors laid to rest

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May 22, 2013
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By Matt Burke

Used with permission from Stars and Stripes. ©2013 Stars and Stripes

Four U.S. Navy sailors reported missing during the Vietnam War will be buried together Thursday [May 2] in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

Lt. Dennis Peterson of Huntington Park, Calif.; Ensign Donald Frye of Los Angeles; and Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Technicians William Jackson of Stockdale, Texas, and Donald McGrane of Waverly, Iowa, went missing on July 19, 1967, after their SH-3A Sea King helicopter was shot down over North Vietnam’s Ha Nam Province, a Defense Department statement said Tuesday [April 30].

The four sailors launched from the USS Hornet and were trying to locate a downed pilot when they took anti-aircraft fire from a concealed 37mm gun position, lost control, caught fire and crashed, the statement said. All four died in the crash.

In 1982, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam handed over five boxes of remains to U.S. officials, the statement said. Nearly 27 years later, those remains were identified as Frye, Jackson, and McGrane.

A joint U.S. and Socialist Republic of Vietnam team investigated a loss in Ha Nam Province in 1993, the statement said. The team interviewed locals who identified potential burial sites. One local claimed to have buried two crewmen near the wreckage, but said both graves had been exhumed.

Over the next seven years, three subsequent joint teams excavated the site and recovered human remains and aircraft wreckage that correlated to the crew’s chopper, the statement said. In 2000, U.S. personnel excavated the crash site and recovered additional remains that the Joint POW/MIA Command Central Identification Laboratory determined came from all four crewmen, including Peterson, the pilot.

Defense Department scientists used forensic tools and circumstantial evidence to identify the remains, the statement said. Peterson was accounted for on March 30, 2012.

‘A true American hero’

Franklin “Mack” Spear compiled this about William Braxton Jackson of Stockdale in “Homecoming II Project 15 May 1990.” Pat Lorenz, writing as “Noe Ed Awl,” included it in her March 12, 2003, “Stockdale Scene” column in the Wilson County News.

“William Braxton Jackson, Rank/Branch: E5/US Navy, Unit: USS Oriskany (CVA-34), from Stockdale is a true American hero from the Vietnam War. Braxton Jackson served his country with honor, distinction, highest degree of bravery, and gave his life in attempting to recover a downed pilot from anti-aircraft fire near Phu Ly in Nam Ha Province, North Vietnam.

“On July 18, 1967, LCDR Richard D. Hartman’s aircraft fell victim to the anti-aircraft fire near Phu Ly in Nam Ha Province, North Vietnam. Hartman, from VA 164, ejected safely, but could not be rescued due to the hostile threat in the area. Others in the flight were in radio contact with him and resupplied him for about three days. He was on a karst hill in a different recovery area. Eventually, the North Vietnamese moved in a lot of troops and AAA guns, making rescue almost impossible.

“One of the rescue helicopters attempting to recover LCDR Hartman on the 19th of July, 1967, was a Sikorsky SH3A helicopter flown by Navy LT. Dennis W. Peterson. The crew onboard the aircraft included AX2 William Braxton Jackson of Stockdale, ENS Donald P. Frye, and AX2 Donald P. McGrane. While attempting to rescue LCDR Hartman, the aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed killing all onboard. On 19 July 1967, Braxton Jackson paid the supreme sacrifice with his life in trying to save a fellow American -- both in the service of their country. Braxton and all of the others who died and served in Vietnam will never be forgotten and Braxton will be remembered as a true American hero who served his country with the highest degree of honor in trying to return to safety a fellow serviceman in need of help and rescue. Braxton is gone, but not forgotten.”

William Braxton Jackson

•Dec. 27, 1934, William Braxton Jackson born in Stockdale, Texas
•Feb. 4, 1953, first enlistment in U.S. Navy
•Nov. 24, 1956, while stationed at Imperial Beach, Calif., Jackson married Jeanette
Horton in San Diego
•July 19, 1967, Jackson reported missing over North Vietnam
•July 30, 1967, memorial services held in Stockdale and Imperial Beach.
•1973 status, Jackson killed/body not recovered
•1982, Socialist Republic of Vietnam returned body remains to United States
•Oct. 14, 1982, Pentagon announced remains found of four U.S. Navy personnel,
including Jackson
•Nov. 4, 1982, Stockdale residents paid last respects to Jackson as first serviceman
from South Texas to die in Vietnam War. Interment in the Pleasant Valley Cemetery
with full military honors.
•2000, U.S. officials recovered additional remains
•March 30, 2012, Defense Department scientists identified Jackson’s remains
•May 2, 2013, Jackson buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Editor’s note: Jackson’s family is proud that a William Braxton Jackson Memorial Library was established in Imperial Beach, Calif., honoring this Stockdale native, who did not receive his high school completion certification until after he commenced military service.


The late Pat Lorenz, aka Noe Ed Awl, penned the “Stockdale Scene” column in the Wilson County News for a number of years. This is an excerpt from her March 13, 2003, column, “Vietnam War hero in Stockdale family plot may not be family,” about Petty Officer 2C William Braxton Jackson.

“The date of Braxton’s loss was July 19, 1967. His status in 1973 was ‘killed’ but his body had not been recovered. His remains were returned to his family on Oct. 26, 1982, and they were interred in the Pleasant Valley Cemetery. But the story does not end there.

“About two years ago, military authorities got in touch with the Jackson family and informed them that Braxton’s dog tags had been found in Vietnam and chances were that some other member of the military might be buried at Pleasant Valley.

“DNA samples were requested of two of the Jackson sisters, Dottie Bowden and Ima Dean Edwards, hopefully, to determine if Braxton really lies in the family plot. As of this date, the family has received no word of the results.”

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