Richard Gene Elzinga – Major, United States Air Force

U.S. Department of Defense

Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

July 07, 2011

Air Force Pilot Missing from Vietnam War Identified

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

Air Force Major Richard G. Elzinga of Shedd, Oregon, will be buried on July 8, 2011, in Arlington National Cemetery.  On March 26, 1970, Elzinga and his co-pilot went missing when their O-1G Birddog aircraft failed to return to base from a familiarization flight over Laos.  Fifteen minutes after the last radio contact, a communication and visual search showed no sign of the men or their aircraft.  Search and rescue missions continued for two days with no results.

Between 1994 and 2009, joint U.S.-Lao People’s Democratic Republic teams led by Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, analyzed leads, interviewed villagers and surveyed possible crash site locations.  During several joint field surveys, teams recovered human remains, aircraft wreckage, and crew-related equipment.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA — which matched that of his aunt and cousin — in the identification of Elzinga’s remains.

The remains of an Oregon serviceman missing in action from the Vietnam War has been identified and returned to his family for full military honors.

Finally in a place of rest, the remains of Air Force Major Richard Elzinga were buried in Arlington National Cemetery Friday, forty years after he disappeared during the Vietnam War.

The Shedd native was laid to rest with his family there to see his military burial.

Elzinga's remains were found back in 2009, and after extensive testing his family was notified.

There is no word as to where Elzinga's body had been found, but his plane went missing in March of 1970 during a flight over Laos.

Friday's ceremony represented the impact he had to the nation and his own community.

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