Funeral Announcement For Pilot Killed During Vietnam War (Hestle, R.)

Release No: 18-037 April 6, 2018
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WASHINGTON — The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Air Force Col. Roosevelt Hestle, Jr., 38, of Orlando, accounted for on June 6, 2017, will be buried April 13, 2018 in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. On July 6, 1966, Hestle was a pilot assigned to the 388th Tactical Fighter Squadron, aboard the lead aircraft in a flight of four F-105s on a strike mission against surface-to-air missile sites in northern Vietnam. As they approached the target, Hestle issued a missile launch warning, and all aircraft began evasive action by diving toward the ground. As the aircraft approached the town of Thai Ngyuen, anti-aircraft began firing at them. Due to the evasive action, the other aircraft lost sight of Hestle. Crews aboard one aircraft observed a large ball rising from the ground, though no crash was observed. Contact attempts were unsuccessful and no parachutes or distress signals were seen or heard. Due to hostile conditions in the area, search and rescue attempts could not be initiated and an aerial search of the area produced no results. Based on this information, Hestle was declared missing in action.

In January 1995, during the 33rd Joint Field Activity (JFA), a joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) team excavated an F-105 crash site near Binh Son Village. Several pieces of life support equipment were recovered, but no remains were recovered.

On April 15, 2015, a Joint Forensic Review (JFR) team received possible human remains recovered by a Vietnamese national who was farming in the area in 1996. The remains were sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis.

To identify Hestle’s remains, DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA), which matched his brother, as well as anthropological analysis, which matched his records and circumstantial evidence.

The support from the government and the people of Vietnam was vital to the success of this recovery

Today there are 1,598 American servicemen and civilians still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. Hestle’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with others unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil or call (703) 699-1420/1169.