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News Release

Press Release | July 13, 2017

U.S. Airman Missing From The Vietnam War Accounted For (Smith, J)

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.

U.S. Air Force Reserve Capt. Joseph S. Smith, 25, of Assumption, Illinois, will be buried July 17 in his hometown. On April 4, 1971, Smith was the pilot of a single-seat F-100D aircraft as the leader in a flight of two aircraft on a combat mission over Cambodia. While making a pass over the target, the pilot of the other aircraft noted white vapor streaming from the left wing of Smith’s aircraft. Smith’s aircraft crashed a half mile from the target. The other pilot reported that he did not see any ejection from Smith’s aircraft and no beepers were heard. The following day, an aerial search revealed aircraft wreckage over a large area, however no remains were observed. Due to intense enemy activity in the area, ground forces could not attempt a recovery operation. Smith was declared missing in action as of April 4, 1971.

U.S. and Kingdom of Cambodia teams, with the assistance of the U.S. Embassy’s POW/MIA specialists, investigated the loss from 1996 until 2016. During subsequent excavations of the crash site in Kampong Thom Province, teams recovered possible osseous remains and wreckage associated with an F-100D aircraft.

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

The support from the Kingdom of Cambodia was vital to the success of this recovery.

Today there are 1,607 American servicemen and civilians that are still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at, find us on social media at or call (703) 699-1420.