YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The remains of an Air Force pilot missing in action from Vietnam have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors, the Defense Department announced Thursday.

The long-missing aviator, Maj. Richard G. Elzinga of Shedd, Ore., was to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., on Friday.

Elzinga and his co-pilot went missing during a March 26, 1970, flight in their O-1G Bird Dog aircraft over Laos, according to a release. Search-and-rescue missions were held for two days after the two were declared missing.

Teams from the U.S. and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command uncovered the human remains and aircraft wreckage between 1994 and 2009, according to the release.

Using forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory matched mitochondrial DNA to Elzinger's aunt and his cousin.

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