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Nov-28-2007 05:11printcomments

Remains of Air Force Captain Shot Down During Vietnam War Identified

Captain Stephen Rusch will be buried on November 30th at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II
A McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II jet fighter, similar to Captain Stephen Rusch's plane that was shot down over Laos in 1972. Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - The remains of a U.S. military officer missing in action from the Vietnam War have been identified. U.S. Air Force Capt. Stephen A. Rusch of Lambertville, N.J. was a was the weapons systems officer in an F-4E Phantom II aircraft that was shot down over Laos.

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office made the announcement Tuesday. Captain Stephen Rusch was the weapons systems officer in an F-4E Phantom II aircraft lost while attacking enemy targets in Salavan Province, Laos on March 7th 1972.

The plane was the number two aircraft in a flight of two. When Capt. Rusch's aircraft was cleared to begin its second run over enemy targets, the flight leader of the number one aircraft reported losing sight of Rusch's plane and observed enemy ground fire followed by a large explosion.

An immediate search began, but all attempts to establish radio contact, as well as search efforts that followed, were unsuccessful.

In 1995, a joint U.S./Lao People's Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), investigated the incident and interviewed several Laotian citizens.

The team surveyed the crash site identified by one of the citizens and found aircraft wreckage.

In 2001, a U.S. citizen, acting as an intermediary for a Laotian citizen, turned over to U.S. officials a bone fragment and a photocopy of Rusch's military identification tag. The bone fragment proved not to be from Capt. Rusch.

In 2002-2003, joint teams conducted two excavations of the crash site. The teams recovered human remains and non-biological evidence including U.S. coins and life support equipment.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA and dental comparisons in the identification of the remains.

Captain Stephen Rusch of Lambertville, N.J. will be returned to his family for services with full military honors. He will be buried on November 30th at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

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