Eugene David Hamilton
Colonel, United States Air Force
Name: EUGENE DAVID HAMILTON
Date of Birth: 12/18/1934
Date of Casualty: 1/31/1966
Home of Record: PEPPERALL, ALABAMA
Branch of Service: AIR FORCE
Casualty Country: NORTH VIETNAM
Casualty Province: NZ
Vietnam MIA's remains on way home
By Topher Sanders
Courtesy of the Montgomery Advertiser
Air Force Colonel Eugene Hamilton's flight suit is in superb shape, his Captain bars gleam and his Air Tactical Command patch is bright and clean.
"We've kept it in good condition," said Lorinda Woods, Hamilton's daughter.
Hamilton's flight suit, a bronze star and a collection of black and white photographs are the items that help Woods, 49, remember her father, who was declared missing in action in Vietnam on Jan. 31, 1966, when she was only 9 years old.
Forty years later, the Pentagon has notified Woods and her family that her father's remains finally have been recovered and identified. Dental records and DNA collected from searches conducted between 2000 and 2005 by joint U.S. and Vietnamese teams helped identify Hamilton's remains.
"As long as he was missing, there was a glimmer of hope, but now that it's been confirmed, it's good to finally get some closure after so long," Woods said.
Hamilton was a graduate of Cliff High School in Opelika -- the east Alabama city where he met his wife and Woods' mother, Carolyn Wynell Cranford.
"We married each other when I was 15," Cranford said. "He was great person. He loved flying and he loved his children."
Woods, the oldest of Hamilton's three children, doesn't remember much of her father but can recall his passion for flying.
"My mom said I liked it when he took me flying," she said. "I wanted to be a pilot just like my father."
A student at Auburn University, Hamilton was a University of Alabama football fan, Cranford said.
He was committed to his job and his country, she said. The family moved 11 times in about 10 years with the Air Force.
"He worked so often and was gone so much, I just treasured the time that he was at home," she said. "He would always say that leisure time was a waste of time."
Cranford said Hamilton, who studied engineering, liked to repair gadgets.
"He was always fixing televisions and other electronics, for a small fee of course," she said. "He was very thrifty."
Hamilton was on his 87th combat mission when he was shot down in his F-105D Thunderchief over North Vietnam. Pilots were only required to fly 100 combat missions during the Vietnam War, his daughter said.
"He considered getting out of the military before he went to Vietnam," Cranford said. "But he just decided that he couldn't leave with his men going to war. He felt he had to be with them."
Cranford, 66, is not bitter and remains patriotic. She said she hopes people who knew Hamilton remember him as a man of sacrifice.
"I would like people to remember him as a person who gave his all for his country, because he did," she said.
The family has not finalized funeral arrangements but hopes to have Hamilton buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
More than 1,800 servicemen from the Vietnam War still are missing in action, according to the Pentagon.
It's been more than 40-years since Lorinda Woods last saw her father, Colonel Eugene Hamilton. The Air force pilot disappeared in January of 1966 while on a flight mission in Vietnam.
"They said that the plane had been shot down. He radioed several times that he had been hit, and there was smoke in the cockpit, and there was a fire and he was getting out,"says Lorinda Woods.
She was just nine when the news came. Since then she has always looked for closure. Last May the Department of Defense found human remains at a crash site, including a leather name tag with the name Hamilton. DNA and dental records were used to confirm the identity.
"I mean I'm glad it's resolved, but its sad at the same time. Q-because it's like your mourning all over again? Yes," says Woods while holding back tears.
Now that there is closure, the open wound of losing her father can begin to heal. She remembers him as a man who loved education, flying, and most of all his country.
"I always support the troops 100%. Someone's gotta do it, that's what they're trained to do. That was my father's passion, to defend his country, and he loved to fly,"says Woods.
The family plans to bury Colonel Hamilton this
summer at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, with full military honors.
Lorinda Woods glances at photographs of her father, Col. Eugene Hamilton, at her home in Prattville on Friday. The remains of Hamilton, a U.S. Air Force officer missing in action in Vietnam in 1966, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with military honors.
Posted: 4 February 2006