The Americans Left Behind

As the nation's last Vietnam POW is declared dead, fresh details emerge on an failed effort to save captured servicemen

Colonel Charles Shelton was the last official Vietnam War POW: the one missing American still designated as being alive by the Pentagon. Shot down during a reconnaissance mission over northern Laos on April 29, 1965, the 33- year-old pilot managed to parachute safely from his RF-101C jet and make radio contact with his home base after he hit the ground. But he was grabbed by Pathet Lao fighters and vanished. Unable to verify his fate, the Air Force listed Shelton as "known captured alive" for 29 years.

On Sept. 20, the Air Force, at the request of Shelton's children, finally put...

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