Veteran - Robin Yeakley

January 26. 2008 6:59AM

Vietnam excavation planned for South Bend MIA soldier Yeakley

Crash site discovered in 2006 near border with Laos

WATERFORD, Conn. (AP) — The remains of a Vietnam soldier missing in action since 1972 along with two crewmates could be identified and returned to the U.S. as early as this summer, according to a Connecticut congressman.

Capt. Arnold "Dusty" Holm Jr. of Waterford was 28 when his helicopter was struck by enemy fire and crashed in a harsh jungle region southwest of Hue, near the Laotian border. Holm and his crewmen, Spc. Robin Yeakley of South Bend, Ind., and Pfc. Wayne Bibbs of Blue Island, Ill., were never found.

Authorities discovered the crash site in 2006.

The Department of Defense plans to excavate there between June 11 and July 25, and any remains recovered will be returned to the Joint Personnel Accounting Command's lab in Hawaii for study and identification.

There was early concern that the crash site might have been contaminated with Agent Orange during the war, but it has now been labeled as safe for the excavation work.

Authorities found the crash site in 2006 and recovered a helmet, log book holder from a Scout helicopter like Holm's, and parts of a machine gun.

But the most important piece of evidence was a third helicopter seat. Holm's wife, Margarete, who now lives in Lebanon, Pa., said her husband flew a two-seat helicopter and had installed a third to hold a gunner or additional ammunition.

Holm was a prominent athlete at Waterford High School before enlisting in the Army in 1962 after graduation.

Yeakley was 23 at the time of the helicopter crash. His mother kept a POW-MIA flag flying in front of her South Bend home for years after he was reported missing in action.

Bibbs, the second of three sons whose siblings live in the Chicago area, was three days shy of his 18th birthday when the helicopter crashed.