Clinton Allen Musil, Sr.
Captain, United States Army
January 15, 2004
Serviceman Missing from Vietnam War Identified
A serviceman missing in action from the Vietnam War has been identified and returned to his family for burial.
He is Army Captain Clinton A. Musil Sr. of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
On May 31, 1971, Musil was aboard an OV-1A Mohawk helicopter flying a daylight reconnaissance mission over Savannakhet Province in Laos. Though enemy antiaircraft artillery was known to be in the area, none of the crewmembers in other aircraft noted any attack on Musil's helicopter. Several people did see a large fireball when the helicopter crashed. Attempts to contact him by radio were unsuccessful, and search and rescue efforts were precluded by enemy forces in the area.
During two investigations in 1993 and 1995, U.S. and Lao specialists learned of a potential crash site from local residents. The purported site was located on a steep slope, and appeared to correlate within 200 meters with the loss location in U.S. wartime records. The site had been scavenged, but the team found small pieces of aircraft wreckage and possible human remains. Following the recommendations of the investigators, other U.S. and Lao teams excavated the site twice in 2001 and once in 2002. During these three excavations, they recovered aircraft wreckage, personal effects, aircrew-related items and human remains.
The recovered remains were identified in 2003
by the Central Identification Laboatory through skeletal analysis and mitochondrial
DNA. The remains of a second crew member have yet to be identified.
The Defense Department's POW/Missing Personnel Office establishes policy
and directs the effort to account for the more than 88,000 missing in action
from all conflicts. Of these, 1,871 are from the Vietnam War.
Clinton Allen Musil Sr. had been missing since May 31, 1971, when his helicopter was shot down while on a reconnaissance flight over Laos.
On Thursday, the Pentagon announced that the Minnesota soldier’s remains had been recovered, bringing relief to a family that spent 33 years wondering.
“It’s just an incredible thing to finally know for sure,” Musil’s son, Larry, said Thursday. “I’m ecstatic we’ve gotten the identification.”
Clinton Musil’s remains were identified by the Pentagon’s Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii last year, using DNA and skeletal analysis. He was one of 48 Minnesotans still listed as missing in action in Southeast Asia. In all, 1,871 Vietnam War-era service members are still listed as missing in action.
Clinton grew up in Minnesota and joined the Marines immediately after high school in 1957. He later joined the Army and rose to the rank of Captain. At the time of Musil’s death at age 31, he was divorced from his wife, who had remained in Minneapolis to raise three small children.
“Military life was his family, so you can imagine that put a strain on the family,” said Larry Musil, a 37-year-old architect living in Florida, where most of the Musil family has relocated.
“He did one tour in Vietnam, so he didn’t have to go back,” he said. “But he went back so one of my uncles didn’t have to do a tour. And he volunteered to go on that mission — he was taking the place of another soldier in that plane.”
According to the Defense Department and POW-MIA organizations:
Clinton Musil was the observer flying with pilot Jack Brunson in an OV-1A Mohawk helicopter, the lead aircraft in a flight of two on a photographic/visual reconnaissance mission about 45 miles west-southwest of Hue, South Vietnam. The area was near a major artery of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the major North Vietnamese military supply line, and was known to be bristling with enemy anti-aircraft artillery.
About 2:15 p.m., Brunson had completed his fifth pass over the target. His wingman in the second helicopter watched as the Mohawk banked steeply to the left and disappeared into the afternoon shadows. The helicopter crashed into a mountainside, exploding in a fireball. No emergency transmissions were heard, nor were any parachutes seen by the other helicopter pilot. Enemy soldiers in the area made a ground search impossible.
Musil was listed as missing for nearly two months before being declared “killed/body not recovered.”
The Defense Department positively identified Musil’s remains about three months ago, and the military flew family members to the Pentagon and presented its documentation.
“I didn’t realize how much I needed to know what happened to my father until I found out,” Musil’s daughter, Allison Spires, 35, said from her home in Washington.
Laotians led Pentagon investigators to the crash site during expeditions in 1993 and 1995. The site was located on a steep slope and appeared to be within about 200 yards of the crash location listed in U.S. records. The site had been scavenged by local residents, but the U.S.-Laotian team found small pieces of wreckage and what appeared to be human remains.
Following the initial investigators, other U.S. and Laotian teams excavated the site twice in 2001 and once in 2002. During these three excavations, they recovered aircraft wreckage, personal effects and human remains. Brunson’s remains still have not been formally identified.
Family members plan to bury Musil with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on May 28, 2004, a date as close to the anniversary of the crash as cemetery officials will allow.
Besides Spires and Larry Musil, Clinton Musil
Sr. was survived by his ex-wife, Lois Riley; son, Clinton, 38; brother,
Richard, of Phoenix; and an ailing mother.
Soldier's remains bring peace for family
To Allison Spires, the effort to find missing U.S. soldiers is priceless. Without it, Spires said, her father — Clinton Allen Musil Sr. — would still be lost in Laos.
The identification of her father's remains, confirmed on Thursday 33 years after the Minneapolis native went missing, has brought relief to his relatives.
"I didn't realize how much I needed to know what happened to my father until I found out," Spires said in a phone interview from her home in Washington. "It weighed heavy in my head. I longed to know him. Once we got the news of the identification, he became real to me. It's a blessing. It's a miracle we've got what we have right now.
"I will never know my dad, and there's pain in that," Spires said. "There's also peace knowing what happened: He went to war and died, instead of 'He went to war and we don't know what happened to him.' "
Spires' older brother, Clinton Allen Musil Jr., agreed.
"We want to continue to put the emphasis on finding these guys," Musil Jr., a Florida pediatrician, said in a phone interview from Florida. "It pays off. It's not just spending millions of dollars and getting nothing."
The siblings' reaction came after the Defense Department's confirmation of what they had known for a while: Human remains found near a crash site in Laos are those of Musil Sr., an Army captain who grew up in Minnesota and was killed during his second tour of duty in the Vietnam War.
The remains will be given to his family, which is planning a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery in May.
Musil, the flight's spotter/photographer, was 30 when he was shot down May 31, 1971, while on a reconnaissance mission over Savannakhet Province in Laos. The pilot of the OV-1A Mohawk, a fixed-wing, prop-driven aircraft, has not been found.
The crash site was located after investigations in 1993 and 1995. It was excavated three times, most recently in 2002. Besides human remains, investigators retrieved aircraft wreckage and personal items.
Musil Sr.'s brother, Richard of Phoenix, provided the DNA sample used to make the identification. The soldier's relatives are satisfied the remains found — including a kneecap, two teeth, part of a rib and part of a foot bone — are his. The government closed the case in August.
The official confirmation leaves 37 Minnesotans and 33 Wisconsinites unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, according to the Defense Department. Spokesman Larry Greer said 11 Minnesotans, including Musil, and seven Wisconsinites have been accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War.
Nationally, the count of soldiers missing in action is at 88,000 from all conflicts, Greer said. Of that number, 1,871 soldiers are missing from the Vietnam War, including 1,426 in Vietnam, 382 in Laos, 55 in Cambodia and eight in China. Greer said $100 million a year is spent searching for soldiers.
Musil's ex-wife, Lois Riley, lives in Florida. The couple had three children: sons Clinton Allen Jr., 38, and Lawrence, 37, who also lives in Florida, and daughter Spires, 35. Musil's Minnesota relatives include an ailing mother and another brother.
The father's namesake is an ex-National Guard member who had contemplated searching for his father in Laos.
"My memories of him are limited," Musil Jr. said. "What I know about my dad is he was really devoted to the military."
Riley said the couple was married for five years. "We divorced before he was shot down," she said. "We had a good working relationship because of our three children."
Riley said her ex-husband is deserving of military honors. He volunteered for the Vietnam War the first time partly to spare his brother, Richard, from military service, she said.
Musil volunteered for the second tour of duty in the Southeast Asian conflict out of love for the military and his mission. "He definitely believed in what he was fighting for," Riley said.
Musil had been a Marine, she said, but switched to the Army. "He loved his country. He was a true hero."
Riley also is relieved that the uncertainty
for their children is over. "This touches every one of them clear to their
18 May 2004:
A warrior is home on 'the soil he died for'
Three decades after their father's plane went down in a fireball over Laos, the children of Captain Clinton Allen Musil will lay their father to rest. 'He's finally coming home,' said Larry Musil.
BY WANDA J. DeMARZO
Thirty-three years ago this month, Captain Clinton Allen Musil's 0V-1A Mohawk reconnaissance plane exploded in a ball of fire over Savannakhet Province in Laos.
Musil, who had only two weeks left to go on his second tour of duty, was officially categorized as MIA. He was 30 years old.
His former wife and three young children never received an accounting of his remains and could not lay their husband and father to rest.
On May 28, just three days before Memorial Day, Musil will receive a military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.
His remains will be carried by horse-drawn carriage.
His former wife, of Lighthouse Point, and now-adult children will be handed a flag symbolic of his sacrifice.
''I was 5 when it happened,'' said Larry Musil, 38, of Jupiter Beach. ``Do I have great memories of my dad? No, but that's what's hard about war -- the memories are always with you. We knew there was little chance my dad was alive, but we held on to hope.''
Growing up, Clinton Allen Jr., a Lighthouse Point psychiatrist known to friends as Allen; Larry, an architect; and Allison, a Seattle nurse, always fantasized that one day their father might walk through the doors of their home, Larry Musil said.
The captain's former wife, Lois Riley, spoke of the recurring nightmare that Musil had: the one where he died fighting in a war.
'When he left for the first tour, he told me `I'll be back,' '' said Riley, who had split with Musil but remained friendly with her ex-husband.
'When my husband and I took Captain Musil to the airport for his second tour, he pulled my husband aside and said he had a feeling he wasn't coming back. He told my husband, 'Take care of my babies.' ''
LOOKING FOR CONG
Musil, originally from Minneapolis,, was flying in a fixed-wing, propeller aircraft low over the jungles of Laos.
There were no weapons in the plane. Musil's was one of five planes flying on a fact-finding mission over a Viet Cong base camp, said Allen Musil.
Musil's best friend was flying above him and saw the aircraft bank to the right. Then, a burst of flame. Then nothing more.
No parachutes were observed.
The enemy artillery hidden in the foliage below would not allow for a search and rescue team to try and locate the men and their downed plane, said Allen Musil.
At that time, the United States was conducting a ''secret war'' in Laos, said Dr. Ed Schwerin, Florida Atlantic University political science chairman. ``We were dropping bombs in that area because the North Vietnamese were hiding out there and running supplies through Laos.''
Musil's remains, along with those of Chief Warrant Officer Jack Brunson, both assigned to the 131st Aviation Company, 212th Aviation Battalion, 11th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade, were recovered during three excavations in 2001 and 2002.
The United States Department of Defense is responsible for directing the effort to account for the more than still 88,000 missing in action from all conflicts. Of these, 1,871 are from the Vietnam War.
It took the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii, another year to positively identify those remains through DNA extracted from bones found at the site.
The DNA was compared to DNA samples from Musil's brother, Richard. It was a match.
There was no DNA available for comparisons to Brunson, but the military is listing him as identified through evidence found at the crash scene: personal effects, life support equipment and aircraft wreckage.
In late June, the government notified Riley and her children of its findings.
''My first reaction was relief,'' said Allen Musil. ``This had been with us for so long. I'd rather know that my dad was dead than think of being a prisoner of war for 30 years.''
Allen Musil, 39, was just a child when his father left for war.
His memories of his father are dim: He and his dad playing a few games, taking walks in their California neighborhood. ''I do remember the day a black sedan drove up to the house and two distinguished military men came to the door,'' Allen Musil said. ``A few minutes later, I heard my mother crying.''
After their father's death, the family moved to Tennessee, where Riley's family lived. When the children were all college age, Riley made the move to South Florida.
Every year, for the past 20-odd years, Allen, Larry or Allison, traveled to Washington, D.C., and attended meetings for updates on their father whereabouts.
They will make a long-awaited journey to Washington in less than two weeks.
''It's a sad, but joyous occasion,'' Larry
Musil said. ``We're celebrating the fact that he's finally coming home.
We're celebrating that we can finally bury him on American soil -- the
soil he died fighting for.''
Lighthouse Point, Florida, May 18, 2004 - The remains of a Minneapolis pilot killed in Vietnam will finally be buried next week at Arlington National Cemetery.
Until now, the former wife of Captain Clinton Allen Musil and their three children, who now live in Palm Beach County, Florida, could not lay him to rest, The Miami Herald reported Tuesday.
Musil was apparently shot down over Laos 33 years ago while flying a reconnaissance mission. The remains, along with those of Chief Warrant Officer Jack Brunson, were recovered during three excavations in 2001 and 2002.
A year later, the remains were identified through DNA samples from Musil's brother.
The dead pilot's former wife, Lois Riley, and their children were notified in June of that year and began making arrangements for an Arlingtn burial.
"My first reaction was relief," said Allen
Musil, a son. "This had been with us for so long. I'd rather know that
my dad was dead than think of being a prisoner of war for 30 years."
'I Won't See Him Again Until We Get To Heaven'
June 4, 2004
By Kevin Reece
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - Three days before Memorial Day, three children said goodbye to their father.
Allison Spires of Woodinville and her brothers Allen Musil and Larry Musil were saying goodbye to a man named Clinton Allen Musil Sr. : A man they first tried saying goodbye to 33 years ago.
"I look at that often and think, 'Wow, look at the looks on our faces, we were visibly upset," Allison said of a 33-year-old photograph of herself and her two brothers at a memorial service for their dad. "So we must have known something was wrong."
Something was wrong. The three young children are visibly distraught. Larry is holding a folded American flag. And all three children are standing in front of a photograph of their father. Clinton Allen Musil Sr. didn't come home from Vietnam.
Army Captain Clinton Allen Musil Sr. was a photographer. He took photos of enemy positions from the right side seat of a Grumman OV-1 Mohawk: a twin prop plane with pilot Jack Brunson at the controls.
The plane vanished somewhere in Laos on May 31, 1971 and they became two of the more than 1,800 soldiers and airmen never found even long after the war was over.
Allison and her family were left only with photographs and the fading memories of a girl who was just 3-years old when her dad disappeared.
"I really missed out. I really missed out knowing him," said Allision.
All Allison and her brothers knew, and all they had, was their father's name etched with 58,234 others in the Vietnam Memorial. So every year that they visited the Pentagon for updates on the search for their father, they would sit in front of the Vietnam Wall, light a candle and stare at their father's name until the candle burned out. His name on a wall was as close as they could get to their dad.
Then, in just the last five years, a search team in Laos found pieces of an American plane and they found human remains. And in 2001 DNA would finally prove that Clinton Allen Musil Sr. had finally been found. Three more years would pass before the investigation was closed and their father's remains returned for burial.
"Nothing's been that relieving or comforting and thrilling at the same time as that moment," said Allison. "Because I never thought it would happen."
So those three days before Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery, the children of an Army Captain finally got to say goodbye.
"I think it's just a little bit of us knowing he's here at home, what he died and fought for," said Larry Musil from his home in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
"He was on foreign soil now he's back home where he should be," said Allen Musil.
But what they waited 33 years for wouldn't be easy. They decided to give all but one of the MIA bracelets they'd worn all their lives and put them in the casket with him. And a private letter Allison would write would go in the casket too.
"You know, some things that I wish I could have told him about me," an emotional Allison said just two days before the funeral. "Things I think he'd want to know. We want to touch a part of him one more time. Because you know it's done. I won't see him again until we get to heaven."
But with the goodbye there would also be surprises. In his room in Vietnam, Captain Musil taped pictures of his children to his wall. Those pictures with the tape and his memories still on them are now part of Allison's collection.
And the Army returned an Army flight jacket, in perfect condition, with "Musil" embroidered on the chest. Allison savors a photo of her dad holding her as a little girl. She feels that in way when she wears the jacket she has his arms to hold her again.
"Yeah that's a treasure. It's a girl thing maybe but it's very comforting to put on," she said.
And it proved comforting for the families who waited all these years that Captain Musil and his pilot Jack Brunson would be buried side by side just as they died.
"They are remembered and we need to be thankful for that," said Allison. "I want my kids to be thankful for the price that was paid."
A price paid by soldiers and by their families who sometimes wait a lifetime to say goodbye.
Photo Couresy of Russell C. Jacobs, August 2006
MUSIL, CLINTON ALLEN SR
Posted: 16 January 2004 Updated: 18 May 2004 Updated: 4 June 2004 Updated: 6 December 2004 Updated: 18 December 2005 Updated: 23 August 2006
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 3 December 2004
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 3 December 2004