Never Forgotten: Recovery mission in Vietnam

Never Forgotten: Recovery mission in Vietnam


– [Soldier] Everybody in the military, you know, we fight the nation’s battles. That’s what we do. And I know if I got killed
in battle somewhere, I would want my remains brought home, you know, to my mom, dad, family, wife. And I know they want the same. (wind blowing) – [Narrator] On a barge,
somewhere in the South China Sea. A team of deep sea diving soldiers, are searching for something. – So Army divers, we’re more of a Jack of all trades
as far as metal tasks. We do underwater welding,
cutting, interlock tools, surveys, port clearance, ships husbandry. – [Narrator] But here in Vietnam, army divers are conducting
a more unique mission. – [Les] So, we go to different
sights around the world and look for POW and MIA
personnel from all the conflicts that the US have been in. – [Diver] Check red. – [Diver] Check green. – [Diver] Check standby. – We are looking for a
helicopter that has known losses. So, our job as as the dive
team is to moor a barge over the crash sight, and
then we do an archeological excavation dig of the
crash site looking for any material evidence or osseous material that can correlate to the known losses. (splashing) – [Narrator] The Defense
POW MIA Accounting Agency, an organization dedicated to bringing back America’s missing in
action, enlists the help of the Seventh Engineer Dive Detachment, who’s conducting most of the diving. Through extensive historical
research and investigation the DPAA identifies sites around
the world where they think they’ll find the remains
of US service members. These missions are conducted
on land as well as at sea. – [Diver] We do exactly
what the land team does, we dig a hole in the earth,
we put it in a bucket, we screen it, same exact
process that they do except ours is at 80
feet and we can’t see it. – [Diver] I think the analogy is, vacuuming your neighbor’s house, for the first time, in the dark. – On standby. (splashing) – Specifically at this site, it’s about three or four feet of silt. So, I don’t know if anybody
has gone through a swamp, but I went to one with my wife
and she got out of the kayak and put her foot down in it,
went all the way to her hips. That’s about like what it is except you can’t see in front of your face. – [Narrator] And they don’t have a lot of time to do it either. – Last DPAA mission, we had
six hours of bottom time. So, we had six hours
to do whatever we could for each diver, one diver,
now we have to split that six hours up into 55
minutes for each diver. But we do like four or five
dives a day for 55 minutes each, we’re not even touching six hours. As divers we gotta be
worried about a lot of stuff down there, but you get to work, you know. There’s, we have no time. You get down, get to your basket, get to your dredge, go to work. – [Narrator] Probably the
most dangerous challenge however, are the risks
of diving at this depth for this period of time. – The deeper you go,
the more decompression you’re gonna owe. That’s why you see us,
you know, rushing up and they rushing the guys
up, sitting them down, and having them put them in the chamber. – [Narrator] To make the
most of their limited time they use a decompression chamber to ensure the divers don’t suffer
from decompression sickness. – Your body builds up
nitrogen in it’s system, so then you breathe it out naturally. But when you’re underwater
and it’s pressurized it doesn’t come out fast enough
through natural respiration so you have to make what are
called decompression stops at certain depths, so you
can safely breathe off the amount of nitrogen to
make it safe to come out. (relaxing piano music) – [Narrator] Despite the
complexity of the work the team never loses sight
of why they’re there. – If you were lost for 75 years and your family didn’t have closure that’d be a big deal for a lot of people. It takes you to a more
emotional point in your life where you think about how
you can help those people. And for us specifically,
it’s in the water. So, if we can get down to
a dive site, get on bottom, and search for these
guys until we find them, that’s what we’re gonna do. And we’re all extremely
glad that we can get the opportunity to do that. (relaxing piano music)

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