Mystery of missing US helicopter in Vietnam solved

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They pledged to leave no man behind, so for 43 years the mystery of what happened to Huey 808 has tortured veterans of the First Air Cavalry.

The helicopter and its four-man crew failed to return from a routine mission in December 1965, soon after braving enemy fire at the battle of Ia Drang, America's first great clash of arms in Vietnam.

Pilots spent months scouring the jungle looking for traces of a crash site, and for years afterwards, comrades of the lost crew made trips to the steamy hill villages of the Central Highlands looking for clues to what happened.

A specialist US military unit has returned to Vietnam to excavate a jungle crash site. It found the missing aircraft, and will return the remains of its crew for burial in Arlington National Cemetery, alongside thousands of other servicemen who perished in America's longest war.

In 2006, a mission from the American military's Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command, found a villager who had shot down a helicopter in late 1965 and described where it was.

JPAC's excavations resemble archaeological digs, with teams sifting through jungle soil in a search for dog tags and personal effects as well as bones. After decades in the acidic soil of the jungle, the only human remains found at the 808 crash site were teeth which have been sent to JPAC's forensic laboratory in Hawaii for identification.

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