Gomer D. Reese III – Captain. United States Air Force

Thursday, September 25, 2008
Remains of two Vietnam era fliers identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of two U.S. servicemen, missing from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

According to a news release from the agency, the remains are those of Captain James E. Cross, of Warren, Ohio; and Captain Gomer D. Reese III, of Scarsdale, New York, both U.S. Air Force. Cross will be buried on October 10, 2008, in Warren, and Reese will be buried in the spring in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

On April 24, 1970, these men were flying a U-17B light aircraft on an orientation flight over Xiangkhoang Province, Laos. Their aircraft was struck by enemy ground fire, crashed and burned. Other U.S. aircraft in the area flew over the crash site and did not see any movement or receive any beeper signals or radio transmissions from the two men.

Between 1994 and 1998, joint U.S./Lao People's Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Honolulu, conducted several investigations of the incident in Xiangkhoang Province and surveyed the crash site. Teams interviewed Laotian citizens who claimed to witness the crash, and the citizens turned over human remains they said were associated with this incident. The remains were consistent with human bone, but were too small to yield meaningful biological characteristics.

In 2004, another joint team re-surveyed the crash site and recovered life-support equipment, including a seat belt buckle consistent with those found in a U-17 aircraft.

In 2007, another joint team excavated the crash site and recovered human remains and crew-related items. In the spring of 2008, a team completed the excavation and recovered more human remains and non-biological material.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC also used dental comparisons in the identification of the remains.

MIA brother of Canton woman found after 38 years
‘Enormous blessing to honor my brother for what he did'
Courtesy of The Watertown Daily Times
25 September 2008

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced Wednesday it had identified the remains of an Air Force pilot from Scarsdale — with a tie to the north country — who went missing in action in the Vietnam War.

Captain Gomer D. “David” Reese III was shot down over Laos on April 24, 1970 while flying a reconnaissance mission, his sister, Elizabeth R. Bommer, Canton, said.


He and Ohio resident, Captain James E. Cross, whose remains were also identified, were monitoring enemy activity in Laos “when we weren't in Laos,” she said. He and Captain Cross were members of a covert group called the Ravens.

The trail went cold for decades, she said, until a cousin of hers, an Army Colonel at the time, met a former member of the Ravens who directed him to other former members “who knew other places to look.”

The search renewed in 1994, culminating in the discovery of her brother's remains in April, she said.

When she learned of the news, “it was like something had settled in me,” she said. “I hadn't had as much closure as I'd thought.”

Her children, she said, are very excited over the fact that Captain Reese “is not a phantom uncle any more.”

Her son encouraged her to cooperate with the ensuing media frenzy, she said, because, “Mom, we need a good story.”

As they look forward to attending a memorial service, Ms. Bommer said, “It's an enormous blessing to honor my brother for what he did.”

Captain Reese will be buried in the spring in Arlington National Cemetery.

23 April 2009:

Air Force Captain Gomer David Reese III was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery today, 39 years after his plane was shot down over Laos while flying a secret CIA mission during the Vietnam War.


Reese, who was 26 at the time of his disappearance, who grew up in Scarsdale, New York, was a member of “The Ravens,” an elite group of pilots who flew covert missions.

His small plane was shot down on April 24, 1970, killing him and another pilot. Because their remains were never recovered both men were officially listed as missing but presumed dead.

In September of last year, the Department of Defense announced that their remains had been found and positively identified.

About 80 people, including family, friends and military veterans attended today’s funeral which was marked by an Air Force jet fly-over, three rifle volleys and the playing of Taps by an Air Force bugler. Reese’s younger sister, Nancy Palazzo of Pelham, New York, described the funeral as more of a celebration than a tragedy.

“He’s finally home resting peacefully,” she said. “It’s been a long journey but we’re blessed that this day has come.”

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