The Air Force Historical Foundation’s 2018 Annual Membership Meeting and Luncheon – held on May 8th in Arlington, Virginia – was topped off by the moving presentation for a daughter’s ceaseless dedication to finding the remains of her father, a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who went missing in action during the Vietnam War.
Colleen Shine was introduced at the 2018 Annual Membership Meeting and Luncheon by Col Thomas A. Owens, USAF (Ret), the Air Force Historical Foundation’s treasurer (photo at left). The recovered helmet of Lt. Col. Anthony Shine, along with evidence from the USAF pilot’s crash site was displayed at the Foundation’s luncheon (photo, right).
Colleen Shine was 8-years-old when USAF Lt. Col. Anthony Shine disappeared while flying an A-7D aircraft as a member of the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron. The reconnaissance and escort mission was being flown near the border of North Vietnam and neighboring Laos, and Lt. Col. Shine advised his wingman that he was going to descend through a cloud cover over the target area to perform visual reconnaissance.
After radio contact was lost, an extensive search and rescue operation was initiated with negative results. He was declared missing in action on December 2, 1972, but this determination wasn’t enough for Colleen, who dedicated her life to finding the truth about her father.
“In 1993, I decided that a ‘Sherlock Holmes’ effort was needed, or we were never going to know,” she said during her presentation at the Foundation’s Annual Membership Meeting at the Army Navy Country Club. “I remember sitting down and reading through every file that we obtained, familiarizing myself with the case, and the terrain, the interviews and the reports that had come in since the day he disappeared.”
A breakthrough occurred when the U.S. military informed Colleen that they had located Lt. Col. Shine’s crash site and presumed he was killed in action – however, they believed there was nothing more to be learned from the area. She decided to find out for herself. Traveling to Vietnam, she rented a Russian jeep, hired a Vietnamese guide and set off toward the presumed crash site – even after having been informed that the location had been heavily scavenged by villagers. Colleen succeeded in finding parts of her father’s aircraft, including serial numbers, and recovered a helmet with his handwritten name inside – which had been kept by a Vietnamese villager.
Based on her discovery, a more in-depth probe of the site and a nearby grave yielded additional remnants of the A-7D with serial numbers, along with a dog tag and human remains with matching DNA.
As a result, Lt. Col. Shine’s remains were returned to the U.S., and he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. In his memory, an award in his name is given each year to a fighter pilot for proficiency and professionalism in flying fighter aircraft.
While finding closure, Colleen knows there is still much to do. Over the years, she has served with the National League of POW/MIA Families and supported other organizations offering assistance to Vietnam veterans and their families.
“For the families of 1,598 Americans still unaccounted for in Southeast Asia from the Vietnam War, answers remain elusive. While politics and statistics often cloud the issue, statistics don’t bleed – these are real men who are missed and loved and remembered,” she said. “And my father’s case proves that answers are both possible and important.”
Joining Colleen Shine at the Air Force Historical Foundation’s 2018 luncheon were two other invited speakers, both addressing the topics of recognizing those who have served and honoring military personnel killed or missing in action. Ann Mills Griffiths, Chairman of the National League of POW/MIA Families, and Col. Mark Franklin (U.S. Army ret.), who is Chief Historian of The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration.
For additional information:
· See the National League of POW/MIA Families website: https://www.pow-miafamilies.org/
· Learn more about the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War by visiting the commemoration’s official website: http://www.vietnamwar50th.com/