US Air Force Pilot Missing from Vietnam War Identified

The Depart­ment of Defense POW/Missing Per­son­nel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a ser­vice­man, miss­ing in action from the Viet­nam War, have been iden­ti­fied and returned to his fam­i­ly for bur­ial with full mil­i­tary hon­ors.

Air Force Maj. Richard G. Elzin­ga of Shedd, Ore., will be buried on July 8 in Arling­ton Nation­al Ceme­tery. On March 26, 1970, Elzin­ga and his co-pilot went miss­ing when their O‑1G Bird­dog air­craft failed to return to base from a famil­iar­iza­tion flight over Laos. Fif­teen min­utes after the last radio con­tact, a com­mu­ni­ca­tion and visu­al search showed no sign of the men or their air­craft. Search and res­cue mis­sions con­tin­ued for two days with no results. 

Between 1994 and 2009, joint U.S.-Lao People’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic Repub­lic teams led by Joint POW/MIA Account­ing Com­mand, ana­lyzed leads, inter­viewed vil­lagers and sur­veyed pos­si­ble crash site loca­tions. Dur­ing sev­er­al joint field sur­veys, teams recov­ered human remains, air­craft wreck­age, and crew-relat­ed equipment. 

Among oth­er foren­sic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tools and cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence, sci­en­tists from the Armed Forces DNA Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Lab­o­ra­to­ry also used mito­chon­dr­i­al DNA — which matched that of his aunt and cousin — in the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of Elzinga’s remains. 

For addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion on the Defense Department’s mis­sion to account for miss­ing Amer­i­cans, vis­it the DPMO web­site at or call 703–699-1169.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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