Missing American Soldier Identified and Honored

Posted by on Apr 28, 2023 in Stuff You Should Know, United States

Imagine having a loved one disappear, and not knowing what became of them until fifty-four years later. That happened to the family of U.S. missing in action in North Vietnam on March 21, 1967. After more than a half a century without answers, Charvet’s remains were finally identified and returned home to his family. Here, btw takes a closer look at this unusual and emotional story. 

The Conflict in Vietnam 

In 1954, Vietnam was divided into two parts: Communist North Vietnam, led by Ho Chi Minh, and the Western-backed South Vietnam, led by Emperor Bao Dai. In 1955, the strongly anti-communist politician Ngo Dinh Diem seized control of South Vietnam. The United States pledged its support to South Vietnam, while the Soviet Union and China supported North Vietnam. U.S. troops had been stationed in Vietnam since the 1950s as part of President Eisenhower’s Cold War efforts to resist Communism in the region. But in 1965, President Johnson decided to send increasing numbers of combat troops into the South Vietnam to support its war efforts against North Vietnam. The decision was very unpopular. More than half a million U.S. troops deserted, while antiwar protests back home turned violent. The U.S. withdrew from the war in 1973. Two years later, North Vietnam seized control of South Vietnam, and the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1976. More than 58,000 Americans were killed in the conflict, as well as more than 1.5 million Vietnamese citizens. 

One Hero’s Story 

Born on May 27, 1940, Paul Charvet was the oldest of three children and grew up on a hop-growing farm in Grandview, Washington. He enjoyed reading, playing sports, spending time outside, and flying. He attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, and received a degree in English in 1962. After graduation, he enrolled in the U.S. Naval Reserve and married his college sweetheart, Christina Johnson.  

Charvet served three nine-month tours in Vietnam as a pilot. On the last day of his final tour, Charvet volunteered for one more mission. He was flying near Hon Me Island in North Vietnam, when he went missing. He was never heard from again. During his time in the military, Charvet received awards for Meritorious Service in 1965 and 1966, and the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1967.  

Unanswered Questions 

Initially, Charvet was considered missing in action. The Navy promoted him to the rank of lieutenant commander. But after ten years passed, on December 2, 1977, his status was changed to “Presumed Killed in Action.” After his presumed death, Charvet received the Air Strike/Flight Medal for heroism. He was also promoted to the rank of commander. In 2020, a Vietnamese team located human remains and other evidence, which they turned over to the United States. Scientists at a base in Hawaii used dental and DNA analysis to verify Charvet’s identity. On March 1, 2021, his family received a call that his remains had been located. But it wasn’t until January of 2022 that federal officials officially confirmed the scientist’s findings.  

An End to the Story 

Commander Charvet’s memorial service, held on April 14, 2023, was attended by personnel from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, Prosser (Washington) Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Yakama Warriors Association. City officials, veterans, and many friends and family members also attended. He is survived by his two younger sisters, Lorraine Charvet and Dona Re Shute. Charvet’s mother, who lived to be one hundred, survived long enough to learn that her son’s remains had been found. Charvet’s ashes were buried next to his parents at Mabton Cemetery in Washington. 

Dig Deeper Use internet resources to learn more about the number of missing U.S. soldiers who served in the Vietnam War. Write a short paragraph about what you discover.