Volume 47, Issue 6 (November 2002)
Analysis of Pilot-Related Equipment and Archaeological Strategy in the Recovery of Aircrew Losses from the Vietnam War
Determining the location and distribution of cockpit and aircrew-related equipment within the wider debris field of a military aircraft crash site is an essential first step in planning and executing the recovery of missing aircrew members presumed still to be on the site. Understanding the spatial relationship of these materials improves the likelihood of finding and recovering the remains of the aircrew during the excavation of an aircraft crash site. Since the greater portion of these unaccounted for crewmembers were involved in aircraft with single-seat cockpits or cockpits with two or three seats in tandem, pre-analysis of the debris pattern may be more-or-less straightforward. Larger, multiple-personnel aircraft, on the other hand, create a potentially more complex analytical situation given the aircrew's greater freedom of movement within the aircraft. Nevertheless, the same fundamental principles apply and, indeed, have been successfully so for some time in the civilian arena. But older aircraft crash sites, i.e., those dating to World War II, Korea, or the Vietnam conflict, have been and still are undergoing taphonomic processes that progressively alter these relationships. The following will illustrate that exchange of information between the anthropologist/archaeologist and the life-support analyst is required to maximize the effectiveness of field recovery and demonstrates the relationship between the recovery of life-support equipment and human remains and the effect that aircraft type has on this relationship.