An Air Force pilot missing in action from the Vietnam War was to be laid to rest Saturday in his home state of Iowa.

The remains of Col. Lester E. Holmes, missing for 37 years, have been identified and returned to his family for burial, according to a Defense Department news release.

Holmes was flying a forward air control mission over Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam, on May 22, 1967, when his 0-1E “Bird Dog” aircraft was struck by enemy fire. Enemy activity in the area prevented a search-and-rescue operation, according to Defense Department officials.

In late 1998, during an excavation of a crash site, aircraft debris and human remains were recovered. Also, fragments of an eyeglass lens found at the site were consistent with a prescription issued to Holmes.

Holmes, a career military pilot, was 47 when his aircraft went missing, reported the online edition of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier (

His family was to hold a memorial and military rites Saturday in Nashua, Iowa.

More than 88,000 Americans are missing in action from all conflicts. Of these, 1,859 are from the Vietnam War, according to the Defense Department.

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