U.S. military guards Wednesday reclaimed 27 remains believed to be those of Americans killed in the Vietnam War -- the largest such repatriation since 1973.

The U.S. military team saluted as the remains, each in a metal case topped with a folded American flag, were loaded one by one onto a U.S. Air Force cargo plane for a flight to army laboratories in Hawaii. The brief, solemn ceremony was held under overcast skies.Vietnam also returned three other remains they identified as those of ethnic Asians but who could be missing Americans.

It was the largest such transfer of remains since the last American forces withdrew from South Vietnam on March 29, 1973, opening the way for the communist victory in April 1975. Three million Americans served in Vietnam, and 58,000 died.