Familes of MIAs hold out hope

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 13, 2000

MONTICELLO — Family members of those missing in action hopethis Veterans Day serves to rekindle interest in locating theirlost kin as they struggle with dealing with the unknown.

A new, little-known government program has sparked hope in thedry kindling of uncertainty.

Mississippi still has at least 43 service men listed as missingin action from the Korean War, including Cpls. Lucius Alexander andHarold Ratliff of Lawrence County and Cpl. Thomas C. Reed ofLincoln County. There are also many missing from the Vietnam War,including Capt. Danny Entrican of Lincoln County.

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“I don’t think there will ever be an end for me until we hearsomething definite,” said Jenny Watson, Entrican’s sister.

A little-known government program is attempting to provide that”something definite” through the use of modern technology.

The Repatriation and Family Affairs Division (RFAD) of the ArmyCasualty and Memorial Affairs Operations Center in Alexandria, Va.,is attempting to use DNA testing to match remains found in Koreawith their relatives here.

The program is also working to identify MIAs from the VietnamWar, although efforts there are hampered by poor cooperation fromthe Vietnamese government. The DNA of relatives of those missing inVietnam is being stored on the database, however, in the hopes thatrelations between the U.S. and Vietnam will improve.

“It is a very unique and wonderful service,” said Kim Carr, whois involved with the program locally.

The program uses blood drawn from the missing servicemember’snearest living relative to match DNA found in remains discovered inKorea. The RFAD hopes to be able to eventually identify all of theremains.

“The process on this end is relatively simple,” Carr said. “It’sa blood draw and some paperwork.”

Carr said she has performed the service for several familiesseeking missing relatives. She became aware of the program througha customer, she said.

The program is a few years old, but only since July 1999 underthe phlebotomy contract were local doctors and nurses allowed toparticipate. The intent of the contract is to make it moreconvenient for family members to provide a sample for filing in theDNA database at RFAD.

“Current information on file is limited and dated. For more than40 years, the Army has had little or no contact with many of thefamilies of these servicemembers. We need information such as thename, relationship, address and telephone number of he primary nextof kin of soldiers who did not return from the Korean War,” theRFAD reports on their website at www.perscom.army.mil/.

“We haven’t heard anything lately – the last couple of years atleast,” Watson said.

Watson said she had not heard about the program, but intended tolook into it. In the meantime, she will continue to work throughother channels to locate her brother.

It was May 1971 when Entrican disappeared. His tour of duty as aGreen Beret with the 5th Special Operations Group would have endedin two weeks.

Although the facts surrounding Entrican’s disappearance remainsketchy, his family says there is enough evidence to believe he wastaken prisoner. Therefore, until they receive conclusive evidencethat he is dead, they will continue to believe he is alivesomewhere in Southeast Asia.

“Until we find out something definite there is still a slimchance (he is alive),” she said. “He was a very determined man andI believe if anyone could make it he could.”

Based on information the family has gathered, Entrican wasoperating out of Da Nang in northern South Vietnam. Many of hismissions and even his exact location are still classified becauseof the nature of special forces operations.

The family has learned, however, that he was leading a smallpatrol, under the code name “Alaska”, to capture and bring backNorth Vietnamese officers for interrogation when hedisappeared.

The patrol was inserted into the jungle by helicopter at a sitethat was a two-day hike from their objective. They were apparentlyspotted on May 17, 1971, and engaged the enemy, spending the nightand most of the next day pinned down by enemy fire.

Entrican called for air support and guided the helicoptergunships to ground targets surrounding his patrol. After the patrolbegan suffering casualties, Entrican was ordered to make a run forit.

According to Watson, his last communication was: “I’m notleaving my dead and wounded behind.” He did, however, order theother patrol members to try and escape. The patrol consisted offour Chinese Nung mercenaries and three American Green Berets,including Entrican.

Three of the Chinese mercenaries were picked up, but when arescue team returned to the scene, they found two Green Berets andthe other mercenary dead. There was no sign of Entrican.

“From all reports, Danny was wounded but alive when he wascaptured,” Watson said. “We think the patrol was in Laos.”

A radio intercept during the operation confirms that twoAmericans were captured and sent to Hanoi, but to go any further isspeculation, Watson said.

In 1973, Danny’s brother, Louie Entrican Jr., went to Laos witha civilian team in search of MIA-POWs. The team was allowed toenter enemy territory unarmed to examine crash sites for evidence.Two of them were killed and the search was called off.

Entrican’s medals attest to his record of service. Among themare a Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart, an InfantryCombat Medal and several special service citations.

Entrican has not been forgotten by local residents either.

Not only is his name featured on the War Memorial in front ofthe courthouse and etched into the black granite stone of theVietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., but it is alsoplaced on a special marker next to the Freedom Tree at the downtowntrain depot.

This Veterans Day Watson will do as she has done for nearly 30years. She will visit her brother’s marker at the Freedom Tree, layfresh flowers, and rededicate herself to the search.

The holiday is one with meaning, she said, and a meaning toomany people take for granted.

“I think people have given a lot for this country and a lot isforgotten – the everyday things we take for granted,” she said. “Hebelieved strongly in what this country stands for. I believe peopleare too quick to forget what the wars are fought for.”

The remains of more than 8,100 Korean War and 2,100 Vietnam Warservicemembers were never recovered or identified, according toRFAD.