Bobby Lyn McKain
Chief Warrant Officer, United States Army
Name: BOBBY LYN MCKAIN
Date of Birth: 2/11/1946
Date of Casualty: 5/3/1968
Home of Record: GARDEN CITY, KANSAS
Branch of Service: ARMY
1st CAVALRY DIVISION
Casualty Country: SOUTH VIETNAM
Casualty Province: QUANG TRI
Name: Bobby Lyn McKain
Rank/Branch: W2/US Army
Unit: A Troop, 1st Squad, 9th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division
Date of Birth: 11 February 1946 (Wichita Kansas)
Home City of Record: Garden City Kansas
Date of Loss: 03 May 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel In Incident: Arthur F. Chaney (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998.
On the afternoon of May 3, 1968, CWO Bobby McKain, pilot, and WO Arthur Chaney, co-pilot, were flying aboard an AH1G helicopter on an armed escort mission for a reconnaissance team operating west of Khe Sanh. At about 1405 hours, while making a pass on an enemy gun position, they were hit by 37mm anti-aircraft fire from the gun emplacement and the helicopter exploded in mid-air. They were about 1500 feet above the ground when the explosion occurred, separating the tail boom and one main rotor blade from the aircraft.
The aircraft spun to the ground on fire and impacted, and seconds later, the ammunition onboard detonated. Other pilots in the area immediately flew to the site and observed the aircraft engulfed in flames with no visible signs of life. Shortly thereafter, they were driven from the area by other heavy automatic weapons fire. Air searches were made, but revealed no signs of the crew. No radio contact was made.
Because of the close proximity to enemy positions,
Chaney and McKain's fates were almost certainly known by the enemy. The
Army holds out no hope they survived, but believes that their cases may
someday be resolved.
It’s been 40 years since Bobby McKain, former Garden City resident, has been home.
Now, he will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery August 11, 2008 with full military honors.
“Emotionally, I have accepted his death,” said Gib McKain, Bobby’s younger brother. “But I now have a tangible closure.”
According to military records, Chief Warrant Officer Two Bobby McKain and his co-pilot, whose name could not be released because of privacy issues, were on an armed escort mission for a reconnaissance team operating in Quang Tri Province in South Vietnam May 3, 1968.
The records say McKain was piloting a AH-1G Cobra helicopter and was serving as a wing man for another helicopter when the Cobra was struck by a 37mm anti-aircraft round.
At 1,500 feet, the helicopter came apart with the tail boom and a main rotor separating from the Cobra’s fuselage, which “spun to the ground out of control and on fire.”
According to witness reports, other pilots flew over the crash site and saw no signs of life.
Because of these reports, the U.S. Army declared both men to be missing in action.
Gib, who had a close relationship with his brother, said he remembers when he was notified of his brother’s crash.
“My heart sank in my chest,” he said.
Gib said even though the two had joined the service, Bobby went to Vietnam and he stayed in the states.
It was during Bobby’s second tour that he was shot down.
“He loved the military,” Gib said. “He loved to fly helicopters.”
Gib had served 16 months in the Army before he received a sole surviving son discharge in November 1968.
“I was the only one left to carry on the family name,” he said.
Back in Garden City, the solemn news had traveled
to the community. Bobby, who had grown up here, was missing and assumed
After 40 years of wondering, Gib said he was notified that the search had ended. His brother had been found.
“I was shocked, stunned,” he said. “I had given up a long time ago. I thought they would never find him.”
It’s called “bone swapping” — a popular means of financial gain in Laos, according to the military. During bone swapping, skeletal remains are bartered for money or goods. In June 1985, an American citizen with ties to Southeast Asian refugees, turned five bundles of human remains over to U.S. authorities, according to a Joint Prisoner of War and MIA Accounting Command report. Four of the bundles were thought to be associated with four of 14 crewman on board a AC-130 when it crashed in Savannakhet, Laos, March 29, 1972. The other bundle belonged to a Vietnam casualty. The remains were sent to a military lab for testing and identification.
Throughout the ’80s, the military sent search
parties to Savannakhet to find the remains of MIA soldiers. According to
the accounting command, 13 of the 14 crewman in the 1972 crash had been
identified but a small group of bones and teeth were left unclaimed.
Lillian McKain had lived for more than 30 years with the possibility that her oldest son survived the crash, Gib said. “She kept grasping for that sliver of hope that Bobby was a POW or had survived,” he said. “Mentally, it took its toll on her.”
Gib said his father died in 1997. And in 2005, his mother died without the knowledge of what happened to Bobby.
“I wish the match had been made sooner,” Gib said. “It would have helped my mom gain closure.”
Gib, the only survivor other than cousins and an aunt, will attend his brother’s funeral in Arlington. There, Bobby’s graveside marker will be removed and his remains will be buried on U.S. soil.
“Finally after all this time of not knowing,
he’s here,” Gib said. “My brother is finally home.”
Communities across the nation know the pain of wondering what happened to hometown troops who didn't make it back from war, and never were found.
Since World War II, tens of thousands of U.S. military war veterans remain missing in action. Over the years, their families have faced numerous political roadblocks in pressing for details that would help them track down information on their loved ones lost at war.
Family and friends of Garden City's Bobby McKain spent decades waiting and wondering about his fate in the Vietnam War. They knew McKain, an Army helicopter pilot, was part of a mission in May 1968 in South Vietnam when his helicopter was hit by enemy fire. Eyewitnesses said the chopper came apart and spun to the ground in flames.
Other U.S. pilots who flew over the crash site saw no signs of life, and the U.S. Army eventually ruled McKain and his co-pilot missing in action. Still, McKain's family had no way of knowing for sure if he died or somehow survived and needed help. Years and decades passed without answers.
But thanks to recent efforts to identify remains of fallen troops, McKain's fate now is known. DNA testing led to positive identification of his remains, and he will be laid to rest with full military honors August 11, 2008, at Arlington National Cemetery.
Sadly, too many American families must continue to wait and wonder about their loved ones still deemed missing in action. Many will never know closure, which is yet another sobering reminder of the tragic cost of war.
The Fourth of July holiday is a time to celebrate our nation's independence. It also should be a time to reflect on the courageous U.S. troops of all wars who made the ultimate sacrifice -- and to wish Godspeed to U.S. military men and women putting their lives on the line every day in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the globe.
For those who knew and loved Bobby McKain,
this Fourth of July no doubt will have special meaning. For all of us,
the hope is his story helps put the price of freedom, something we too
often take for granted, in proper perspective.
The remains of Bobby Lyn McKain, shot down in 1968, were ID'd through DNA.
By Brian Malnes
Courtesy of The Denver Post
2 July 2008
On May 23, 2008, Army officials came to the Aurora, Colorado, home of Gib McKain, the brother of the fallen pilot, to inform him that DNA testing positively identified the remains.
"I was stunned," said Gib McKain, a 61-year-old retired federal worker. "I never thought they'd find him."
Bobby McKain was shot down while flying his Cobra helicopter on May 5, 1968. Military reports indicate that the aircraft crashed on the border of Vietnam and Laos in Quang Tri province. Witnesses said the helicopter burst into flames and that no signs of life could be seen.
Three months later, McKain was pronounced "killed in action, body not recovered."
At the time, Gib McKain was also in the Army at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. A letter from a friend said simply, "Sorry to hear about your brother." He immediately called his mother, who told him what happened. His mother hadn't previously passed on the news because she worried he might go AWOL and come home.
Over the years, Gib McKain held only a slight hope that his brother might still be alive.
"I've seen movies, like 'Deer Hunter,' about what POWs went through. Given that, I just thought of him as being dead," he said.
After the Vietnam War ended, attempts to recover the remains of American personnel began.
In June 1985, a U.S. citizen with ties to Southeast Asia turned over five bundles of remains, according to a military report given to Gib McKain. Four of the bundles were identified and the fifth was thought to be that of another serviceman, but was not conclusive.
As part of the military forensic investigation, DNA was collected from the families of Americans who were unaccounted for. Gib McKain was sent a DNA kit and returned the swab in 2002.
The years-long investigation resolved that three bones making up the fifth bundle belonged to Bobby McKain. And finally he will be laid to rest.
In 1968, the McKain family buried an empty casket in his memory at the cemetery in Garden City, Kansas.
In recognition of his service and sacrifice, McKain's remains will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery on August 11, 2008.
McKain was the recipient of two Air Medals, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and a Purple Heart. He was on his second tour of duty in Vietnam when he was shot down.
Gib McKain is the sole surviving member of the immediate McKain family. His father, Bobby D., died in 1997, while his mother, Lillian, died in 2005.
"He was not forgotten," Gib McKain said. "After all this time, he was not forgotten."
According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing
Personnel Office, there are 27 U.S. Unaccounted-For from the Vietnam War
whose home of record is the state of Colorado.
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel
Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of two U.S. servicemen,
missing from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned
to their families for burial with full military honors.
Posted: 2 July 2008 Updated: 7 July 2008 Updated: 17 July 2008