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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 Capt. Robert E. Holton, 27, of Butte, Montana, will be buried July 22 in his hometown. On Jan. 29, 1969, Holton, a member of the 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron, was the pilot of an F-4D on an armed reconnaissance mission over southern Laos. The flight lead cleared the aircraft to engage a target, and ordnance was seen impacting the ground. Haze in the area made for difficult visibility, but immediately thereafter, aircrews saw a large fireball on the ground in the vicinity of the target. The crewmember on another U.S. aircraft radioed Holton’s aircraft but received no reply, and no parachutes were seen. Efforts to make contact with the crew continued until the remaining planes were forced to leave the area due to low fuel. Holton was subsequently declared missing in action.
Between 1994 and 2011, the Department of Defense conducted nine site visits and excavated sites in both Vietnam and Laos in its attempts to resolve this case. In 2014, residents of Boualapha District, Khammouan Province, Laos, turned over possible human remains and material evidence reportedly recovered from crash sites in the vicinity of Ban Phanop Village, the area where Holton’s aircraft was lost. In January 2017, a joint U.S./Laos team excavated a crash site associated with this loss and recovered human remains and material evidence.
To identify Holton’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental analysis, which matched his records, as well as material evidence analysis and circumstantial evidence.
The support from the governments of Laos and Vietnam were vital to the success of this identification.
Today there are 1,606 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 www.dpaa.mil, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or call (703) 699-1420.