Remains of Air Force pilot shot down in Vietnam to be interred at Arlington
SEOUL — An Air Force pilot who went missing after his plane was shot down during the Vietnam War will be buried Thursday with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery, according to the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office.
Maj. Thomas E. Reitmann of Red Wing, Minn., assigned to the 334th Tactical Fighter Squadron, disappeared Dec. 1, 1965, after his F-105D Thunderchief received a direct hit from anti-aircraft artillery and crashed in Lang Son Province in northern Vietnam. Other U.S. pilots saw no parachute and heard no signals or emergency beepers, and due to intense enemy fire, a search-and-rescue team was not able to look for Reitmann. A two-day electronic search also found no site of Reitmann or his aircraft.
Vietnam repatriated remains believed to be those of Reitmann to the U.S. in 1988, but those remains were later identified as another American pilot who went missing in the area on the same day as Reitmann.
Between 1991 and 2009, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command attempted to locate his aircraft by interviewing villagers and analyzing leads.
The tip that led to Reitmann’s remains surfaced in 2009, the St. Petersburg Times newspaper reported last month. JPAC records show that the Vietnamese government turned over two leg bone fragments found by a Vietnamese farmer in Lang Son province in Nov. 2009, the newspaper reported. The bones were sent to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Md., where they were compared with a DNA sample provided by Reitmann’s brother, Edward.
In March of this year, Vietnam turned over the remaining bones, which were analyzed and found to match the earlier sample, according to the St. Petersburg Times report. In May, JPAC concluded the remains were Reitmann’s.
Seven pilots who flew with him, now in their 70s and 80s, will attend the Arlington ceremony, according to the newspaper.
“This is a celebration,” Reitmann’s daughter, Kim Lorigan, told the paper. “We are celebrating him coming home. We are finally able to give him the honors that he is due and bury him on American soil.”