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Watch for Those Fragments of Evidence: The Use of an Automatic Timepiece to Help Correlate a Helicopter Crash Site from the Vietnam War


  • Supported in part by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and the JPAC-CIL.

  • The opinions and conclusions expressed herein reflect those of the authors and are not to be construed as official or as the views of the United States Department of Defense.

Additional information and reprint requests:
Hugh Tuller, M.A.
Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
Central Identification Laboratory
310 Worchester Avenue
JBPHH, HI 96853


Abstract:  This case study illustrates the use of the date function on an automatic wristwatch to help identify a Vietnam War helicopter crash site. The location of a crash incident can sometimes be uncertain because of inadequate or inaccurate wartime records and the passage of time. Artifacts recovered from a prospective crash scene are regularly used to correlate the loss incident. In this case study, a recovered automatic watch displayed a date 2 days later than the reported loss incident. Although the date conflicts with the aircraft crash incident report, it is observed that a fully wound automatic watch continues to work for c. 2 days after movement of the watch ceases. Thus, the watch’s date in fact correlates with the aircraft crash incident report. It is noted that automatic watches may also be used to date scenes of crime.