The remains of an Air Force serviceman previously unaccounted for from the war in Vietnam have been identified and are to be buried today in Rusk, Texas.
He is Capt. Francis W. Townsend, of Rusk.
On August 13, 1972, Townsend and his pilot were flying their RF-4C Phantom on a photo-reconnaissance mission over Quang Tri Province, North Vietnam. The aircraft was struck by enemy fire, and the pilot was unable to maintain control. He ordered Townsend to eject. Seconds later, the pilot ejected from the burning aircraft and was able to establish radio contact with rescue forces. Unfortunately, he was captured before a rescue could be made.
Following the release of U.S. POWs in 1973, the pilot stated he learned in captivity that Capt. Townsend had perished in the crash though he initially believed he had ejected.
Between 1999 and 1997, joint U.S. and Vietnamese teams, led by the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting, conducted four investigations in the area where Townsend's plane had crashed. They interviewed dozens of villagers, including one who claimed to have buried some remains near a flooded crash crater in the area. He also stated that he had found two military ID tags at the crash site. During one of the investigations, the team members were shown the tag of Capt. Townsend by a local national.
In July 1998 and May 1999, two full-scale excavations were carried out in Quang Tri Province, where team members of the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii (CILHI) recovered aircraft wreckage, personal crew member artifacts, and human remains. Mitochondrial DNA was extracted from one of the fragments, and was found by CILHI to match the DNA of two of Capt. Townsend's maternal relatives.
Approximately 1,900 American servicemen remain missing in action from the Vietnam War, while the remains of nearly 700 have been located, identified and returned to their families since the end of the war.