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Release No: 476-04
May 18, 2004

Missing Vietnam War Serviceman Identified

A serviceman missing in action from the Vietnam War has been identified and returned to his family for burial.

He is Air Force Col. Lester E. Holmes of Plainfield, Iowa.

On May 22, 1967, Holmes was flying a forward air control mission over Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam, when his 0-1E Bird Dog aircraft was struck by enemy fire. Another forward air controller in the area saw Holmes aircraft spiral toward the ground, but there were no emergency radio beacons picked up for the next several days. Enemy activity in the area prevented a search and rescue operation.

During two investigations in 1991 and 1997, a joint team of U.S. and Socialist Republic of Vietnam specialists interviewed villagers in the province and surveyed three crash sites where Holmes plane was allegedly lost. The searches met with negative results.

In October 1997, Vietnamese officials turned over to the United States the results of a unilateral investigation in which they confirmed specifics of the shoot down, though documented witnesses could not place the exact location of the crash. Another joint team interviewed a retired Vietnamese general officer who recalled witnessing on radar the downing of the aircraft. He claimed to have visited the crash site but could offer only a general location.

A full-scale excavation of one of the crash sites first investigated in 1991 was carried out in late July 1998, when aircraft debris and human remains were recovered. Additionally, fragments of an eyeglass lens found at the site were consistent with a prescription issued to Holmes.

The recovered remains and other circumstantial evidence were identified by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which also led the joint field operations in Vietnam. More than 88,000 Americans are missing in action from all conflicts. Of these, 1,859 are from the Vietnam War.

For more information please call the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) at (703) 699-1169.

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