Lebanon man has new insight into dad’s disappearance during Vietnam War


LEBANON, Tenn. (WKRN) – This Memorial Day, a Tennessee man has new insight into what happened to his father, a POW in the Vietnam War.

Bill Burkart shared a picture with News 2 that captures the last time he and his sister embraced their father, Colonel Charles Burkart Jr.

The picture was taken right before Colonel Burkart left for a second deployment to Vietnam.

On the afternoon of June 13, 1966, at the age of nine, Bill Burkart said he received a devastating call.

“I was outside playing baseball with some friends and got a call from my mother that told me an Air Force car would be coming to pick me up. Of course I knew what that meant,” he said.

Colonel Burkart was a B-57 pilot. His mission was to stop goods and supplies from reaching the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Burkart learned his father’s plane went down.

“Another plane flying over the area heard a short beeper. So we thought he was able to eject from the airplane, and possibly made it to the ground, and someday we would see him as a prisoner of war,” said Burkhart.

Years went by and there was no word on what happened.

“I would look up at the sky at night wondering where was he. I would wonder as a young child why they couldn’t find the airplane,” said Burkart.

Then, in the late 80s, the family received new hope.

“A man wrote a book, his name is Joseph Miller, and he claimed my father was one of 13 live prisoners in Laos in 1989,” said Burkart.

Now, more than 50 years after the colonel went missing, there was a major discovery. Someone recently found parts of Burkhart’s plane in Laos.

“I have gone my whole life not knowing what happened to my father. That phone call changed a lot of things for all of us,” said Burkart.

The remnants of Colonel Burkart’s plane have been sent to a lab in Ohio for research.

For the first time this Memorial Day, Burkhart shared the newest information with family and friends at a Memorial Day service and Lebanon Monday morning.

Burkhart received several medals, including the Purple Heart, in his father’s honor. He says after 50 years of wondering he is grateful for new insight into what happened to his father.

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