Lewis Herbert Abrams – Colonel, United States Marine Corps

Born on August 17, 1929 in Montclair, New Jersey, he was a regular Marine Corps Flight Officer.

He began his tour of duty in Vietnam on November 25, 1967 and became a casualty of that war on February 9, 1968 when his fixed-wing aircraft was shot down over the land in Vietnam. His body was not recovered until 1997.

On July 9, 1997, he was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

For LuEllyn Abrams, the questions remained long after a Marine knocked on her door one Saturday and told her that her husband had disappeared with his plane over North Vietnam.

For almost 30 years, the remains of Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Abrams, a Montclair native, lay hidden at the bottom of a water-filled crater on the edge of a farmer’s field. On Wednesday, finally, he was laid to rest with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery as an honor guard of more than 50 Marines stood by.

“What most people can do in three days, it took us 30 years to do,” his widow, LuEllyn Abrams, said. “It was just so perfect today. It finalizes a long period of time for us, puts a cap on things.”

A 1947 graduate of Verona High School, Abrams vanished in his A-6 at 4:25 a.m. November 25, 1967, during a solo bombing run at an airfield in the vicinity of Haiphong. A surveillance plane above him at 30,000 feet circled for 35 minutes. But his plane a and its full load of bombs never reappeared on the radar screen.

Abrams was promoted to colonel after his death.

It wasn’t until 1988 that Vietnam returned limited remains and a military identification card fragment that appeared to bear his name. U.S. military officials visited the Haiphong province in 1993, and Vietnamese officials directed them to a farmer’s field, where there was a giant crater filled with water. Many villagers reported seeing a massive explosion in the field around the time Abrams disappeared.

A team of experts drained the pond and compared DNA from recovered material to blood samples from Abrams’ sister, Louise. The DNA was similar enough to confirm the remains were the colonel’s, and finally the findings were approved on June 16 by a military review panel.

“They gave me a little pile of stuff, wouldn’t fill a shoebox,” LuEllyn Abrams said. “It’s miraculous the things that survived. I was handed my husband’s dog tags today.”

For many years, the questions surrounding Abrams’ disappearance haunted his wife and four children. Those questions remained even though the military changed the colonel’s status from missing in action to killed in action in 1978 because no information had been received to indicate that he might be alive

“In rational moments I knew he was dead,” LuEllyn Abrams said. “But the human mind is a funny thing. You have dreams. Or all of a sudden, you get a sense he’s back, tinglings of ‘maybe I’m wrong.’ The gulp comes up and it hits you behind the knees.”

The Abrams children, teenagers at the time of their father’s disappearance, clung to hope until they reached adulthood, she said.

On Wednesday, with two daughters at her side, Sara, 45, and Annie, 42, LuEllyn Abrams lined up behind a column of Marines at attention, dressed in blue and white. Her two other children, Ellen, 47, and John, 41, could not attend the ceremony. As a Marine drummer tapped a solemn beat, the family followed a caisson bearing the casket, and a solitary horse, with its stirrups holding two empty boots facing backward to signify a fallen hero. The ceremony took 30 minutes and included a 21-gun salute.

“Once he got in flight training, it was him and his airplane,” she said. “It was pretty much the love of his life. . . . If something happened, this is where he always wanted to be.”

After graduating from Verona High School, where he starred on the football eam, Lewis Abrams went to Yale University. He joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and eventually the U.S. Marine Corps to pursue his dream of being an officer. Abrams met his wife while stationed in Laguna Beach, California. An acquaintance introduced them because their nicknames sounded the same — Lew and Lu.

Alan Noble, a friend of Lewis Abrams’ from seventh grade through high school, learned of Abrams’ death from a classmate as he worked to organize the 50th-year reunion for their Verona High School class. He remembers Abrams as “one of the guys.”

“He liked a good joke,” Noble said. “And he was always very smart and forceful in his thinking.”

Also present at the ceremony was Senator Robert G. Torricelli, D-N.J., who praised Abrams as a man who “served his nation with distinction.”

Citation For The Navy Cross

For extraordinary heroism as Commanding Officer of Marine All Weather Attack Squadron 242 and as Pilot of an A6A Intruder aircraft in Vietnam. In the early morning hours of 25 October 1967, Colonel then Lieutenant Colonel ) Abrams, in the first Marine aircraft to strike at the heart of North Vietnam’s Air Force, exhibited outstanding courage and presence of and in the midst of violent combat action as he successfully completed a high – priority mission by bombing the principal military airfield in North Vietnam.

A highly effective integrated complex of hundreds of radar – controlled antiaircraft weapons, barrage weapons with steel cables extending hundreds of feet into the air, two enemy airfields with MIG interceptor aircraft, and many active surface – to – air missile sites protected every approach to his target. Acting on an urgent fragmentary order, Colonel Abrams personally took charge of the preparations for a multiplane, multisquadron attack against the formidably defended Phuc Yen airfield. Barely six hours before takeoff time another fragmentary order was received, modifying the previous plan and requiring Colonel Abrams to make extensive last – minute changes in navigation and attack procedures, which allowed no margin for error.

With grim determination, he promptly made corrections in heading, altitude, and airspeed and accurately delivered his bombs on the runway at Phuc Yen. Under the most demanding conditions of degraded systems operation,  low – level flight in mountainous terrain in darkness, and in the face of a vicious volume of antiaircraft and guided missile fire, Colonel Adams courageously accomplished his mission of devastating the runway at Phuc Yen. His bravery and determination throughout the bitter action were an inspiration to all who were involved and were instrumental in accomplishing this crucial mission.

By his intrepid fighting spirit, daring initiative, and unswerving devotion to duty, Colonel Abrams reflected great credit upon himself and the Umited States Marine Corps and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

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