Ralph Campion Bisz – Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy

Date of Birth: 3/28/1942
Date of Casualty: 8/4/1967
Home of Record: MIAMI, FLORIDA
Branch of Service: NAVY
Rank: LCDR
Casualty Country: NORTH VIETNAM
asualty Province: NZ
Status: MIA

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release


Navy Pilot Missing In Action From the Vietnam War is Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

He is Lieutenant Commander Ralph C. Bisz, United States Navy, of Miami Shores, Florida.  His funeral arrangements are being set by his family.

On August 4, 1967, Bisz took off in an A-4E Skyhawk from the USS Oriskany to bomb an enemy petroleum depot near Haiphong, Vietnam.  As he neared the target, his aircraft was struck by an enemy surface-to-air missile and crashed near the town of Hai Duong in Hai Hung Province.  No parachute was observed and no emergency beeper signal was received.

In 1988, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) repatriated to the United States human remains from Hai Hung Province, which they attributed to Bisz on the basis of their historical records of the shootdown as well as documentation of his burial.

Between 1988 and 2004, joint U.S./S.R.V. teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), conducted several investigations of the incident and surveyed the crash site.  A team found aircraft wreckage at the site which was consistent with an A-4E Skyhawk.  Teams also interviewed witnesses who recalled the crash and burial of the pilot in a nearby cemetery.  Additionally, one witness indicated that he oversaw the exhumation of the American's remains from the cemetery, and their turnover to district officials.

Between 1993 and 2004, 25 samples from the remains turned over in 1988 were submitted to several laboratories for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis, but yielded inconclusive results.  In 2007, the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used refined DNA collection techniques and succeeded in obtaining verifiable mtDNA.

Using forensic identification tools, circumstantial evidence, mtDNA analysis and dental comparisons, scientists from JPAC identified the remains as those of Bisz.

For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 509-1905 or (703) 699-1420.

Family In South Florida Learns Of Vietnam Vet's Return
Burial Scheduled In October At Arlington National Cemetery

Ralph Biz Skip would eventually become a U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander during the Vietnam War when a day in August 1967 brought his plane down, and he would never be heard from again.

A family in South Florida has closure after forty years since the Vietnam War when Ralph Biz Skip went missing on a flying mission.

Diane Smith, a cousin, told CBS4 Reporter Joan Murray, “He would come home with stories of all the training; or how difficult and yet how fulfilling they would give him an amazing airplane to fly.”

On a bombing mission on August 4, 1967, Skip's plane was shot down.

The family would live in limbo not knowing if he was dead or alive.

In the late 1980's, remains believed to be his were turned over to U.S. authorities, but it would take another twenty years for the Navy through advanced DNA testing to bring the news to Smith.

“You think it's below the surface, but it isn't. I couldn't talk. It was such a wonderful celebration in our family that he's come home.”

A West Palm Beach woman finally has learned what had long been thought to be fact: The cousin with whom she grew up in Miami was shot down and killed in Vietnam more than 40 years ago.

Diana Smith recently heard from the Defense Department's Prisoner of War/Missing Persons Agency that remains returned to the United States decades ago were those of her cousin, Navy Lieutenant Commander Ralph “Skip” Bisz.

“They were certain that these remains belonged to Skip,” said Smith, at 64 the pilot's legal next of kin.

Bisz was 25 on August 4, 1967, when he piloted his Skyhawk jet to its target: a petroleum depot near Haiphong. Almost at the depot, he was struck by a surface-to-air missile and crashed near the town of Hai Duong. Observers saw no parachute and no emergency signal was detected.

In 1988, the Vietnamese government returned to the United States remains it said were Bisz's, based on records of the shootdown and the pilot's burial. Over several years, joint U.S.-Vietnam teams investigated the incident and surveyed the crash site, determining that the wreckage there was that of a Navy Skyhawk. They also interviewed witnesses to the crash and later burial of the pilot in a nearby cemetery.

From 1993 through 2004, DNA from 25 samples of the remains was tested in different laboratories, but results were inconclusive.

In 2007, however, using more sophisticated techniques, the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory positively identified the remains as those of Bisz.

In early May, Smith got a call from the military telling her that Bisz's bones had been identified.

“I'm sad, but I'm very joyous,” she said. “We didn't realize the pain was still there, and how this closure is such an amazing thing.”

Smith said she and Bisz spent many years together when both their families lived in Miami and Miami Shores. “I never remember a time he wasn't around,” she said. “He was another brother.”

Bisz was an only child, and both his parents are dead, Smith said.

Bisz's remains are in Hawaii at the laboratory of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. They will be escorted to Washington, D.C., for a full military burial at Arlington National Cemetery in October.

Arlington Burial Bisz

Navy pallbearers carry the casket of Navy Lieutenant Commander Ralph C. Bisz
at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, October 6, 2008.

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