Officials at the Defense Department's POW/Missing Personnel Office say they've identified the remains of two U.S. airmen from the Vietnam War. The airmen were reportedly shot down in 1969 and have been missing ever since.
The government says the remains belong to 34-year-old Col. James E. Dennany of Kalamazoo and 27-year-old Maj. Robert L. Tucci of Detroit.
In a press release, the Defense Department explains how Dennany and Tucci's plane went down:
They were flying the number three aircraft of three F-4Ds escorting an AC-130 gunship on a night strike mission over Laos. After the gunship attacked six trucks, setting two of them on fire, the AC-130 crew’s night vision equipment was impacted by the glow from the fires. They requested that Tucci attack the remaining trucks. During the attack, gunship crew members observed anti-aircraft artillery gunfire directed at Tucci’s plane followed by a large explosion. No radio transmissions were heard from the F-4D following the attack and no parachutes were seen in the area. An immediate electronic search revealed nothing and no formal search was initiated due to heavy antiaircraft fire in the area.
A funeral with full military honors will be held at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery this Friday.
David Goodman of the Associated Press writes that Dennany's son, James Denanny Jr., kept hope up that his Dad would be found alive:
After his father disappeared, the family clung to the possibility that the airman had survived and been taken prisoner, the son said.
The elder Dennany's wife, Emily Dennany, would address care packages to him with such items as bouillon cubes, the son recalled. They would be returned unopened.
James Dennany Jr. said he suspected the truth, despite the fervent prayers that his father would return safe.
"I would cry myself to sleep," he said. "You don't know what you have till you lose it."
A search team reportedly found wreckage and human remains in Laos in 1999. "Forensic tools and circumstantial evidence" led to the remains being identified as Dennany and Tucci's.