Leonard Murray Lee
Captain, United States Navy
From a contemporary press report: 4 Sepember 2000
For nearly 33 years, Leonard Murray Lee was considered missing in action.
The F-4 Phantom jet he piloted on a bombing run over North Vietnam disappeared from radar on December 27, 1967. He had not been seen again, until now.
Last month, the government notified Lee's family that his body had been identified in the remains of his aircraft, which was found underwater. Part of the wreckage had been caught in a fisherman's net.
"Our parents always had hope - well, we all did - up until the time they released the last POWs," said Sherman Lee, one of his brothers, who lives in New River.
Their parents, John and Dorothy Lee, are deceased.
Leonard Lee, identified through his dog tags and DNA analysis, was promoted to captain while listed as missing. He will be buried with that rank at Arlington National Cemetery. His family is awaiting word from the Navy to work out a date for the burial.
Leonard Lee was born in Radford and grew up around the city and the nearby community of New River in Pulaski County. He attended Virginia State College near Petersburg for a year, but he was still only 17 when he joined the Navy in 1952. His parents had to give signed permission, Sherman Lee recalled.
Leonard Lee finished a second year of college in Tennessee after he completed basic training. That gave him the two-year minimum needed to go to flight school and fulfill his ambition of becoming a jet pilot.
He had made a couple of Mediterranean cruises before he went to Vietnam as a pilot from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. Lee was a lieutenant commander when he and radar intercept officer Roger Innes of Chicago were flying the lead aircraft of two Phantom jets over Nghe An Province in North Vietnam.
Lee had started his bombing run when his wingman lost sight of Lee's plane and it disappeared from radar. There were no signs of anti-aircraft fire. What happened to Lee's plane was a mystery.
Charles Lee said his brother was 32 when he went on that last mission. "He had been gone longer than he lived."
The navigator on the aircraft was Lieutenant Commander Roger B. Innes.
Posted: 10 November 2000 Updated: 2 December 2001 Updated: 3 March 2002 Updated: 18 October 2002 Updated: 27 November 2005