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Remains of La Habra soldier lost in Vietnam in 1969 are identified

August 29, 2012 |  1:43 pm

NamThe remains of a soldier from La Habra missing since he disappeared in Southeast Asia in 1969 with two other U.S. troops have been officially identified by the Department of Defense.

Army Sgt. 1st Class William T. Brown was part of a Special Forces unit patrolling in Vietnam’s Quang Tri province in November 1969 when enemy forces ambushed the group, which consisted of three American soldiers and six Vietnamese soldiers, according to the Defense Department.

Witnesses said all three Americans were injured, with Brown suffering a gunshot wound to the side, but bad weather and the presence of enemy forces prevented a search team from reaching the site of the attack for eight days.

By the time they arrived, the American soldiers were gone, though the searchers found equipment belonging to one of them.

Starting in 1993, U.S. and Vietnamese investigators conducted numerous interviews in the area, which is located near the border of Vietnam and Laos, and found former Vietnamese fighters who said they had ambushed an American team in the area in 1969.

In 2007, a Vietnamese man alerted investigators to human remains in the area.

Investigators found more remains after excavating a hilltop in 2010, along with Brown’s military ID tag and a Zippo lighter belonging to one of the other missing soldiers, Sgt. 1st Class Donald M. Shue of Kannapolis, N.C.

Investigators used DNA from the remains to identify the missing soldiers, which also included Sgt. 1st Class Gunther H. Wald of Palisades Park, N.J.

Brown, a Green Beret, was the youngest of three brothers, was unmarried, and left behind no children, said his cousin, Rocky Maggio, 67, of Waupaca, Wis.

Within the last decade, he said, Brown's brothers both died, as did Brown’s parents, who had been active in the effort to find his body.

“We’re glad, it brings some closure,” Maggio said of the remains being identified.

“It’s a shame that his mother and dad and two brothers couldn’t see this.”

The soldiers will be buried in a single casket at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday.

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-- Christopher Goffard

Photo: Army Sgt. 1st Class William T. Brown. Credit: Department of Defense.

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