WASHINGTON (AP) â€” An Illinois Air Force pilot missing in action from the Vietnam War has been accounted for and his remains are being returned to his family for burial, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
He was identified as Col. Harold V. Smith of Bridgeport, Ill.
Smith was leading a four-aircraft attack against enemy surface-to-air missile sites in Thanh Hoa Province, North Vietnam, on March 7, 1966, when he disappeared, the Pentagon said in a statement.
When the flight reformed after the attack, Smith's plane failed to rejoin the group. Other members of the flight searched the area, but couldn't find him.
U.S. and Vietnamese investigators interviewed potential witnesses and searched again in 1993, 1994 and 1995, but neither the crash site nor human remains were found, the Pentagon said.
Then in 1996, the Vietnamese government helped U.S. investigators find an informant who led them to the burial, which was excavated in August and September 1998, uncovering human remains and some personal items. Smith was identified through analysis of the remains and other evidence by the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii.
With the accounting of Smith, 2,028 Americans remain missing in action from the Vietnam War, and 555 have been identified and returned to their families.