Vietnam pilot buried in Arlington decades after going missing

Jul 8, 2011, 11:47 a.m.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Remains of an Air Force pilot who went missing during the Vietnam war were interred on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery, four decades after he failed to return from a flight over Laos.

Air Force Maj. Richard G. Elzinga of Shedd, Oregon was returned to his family and buried with full military honors, a Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office statement said.

Elzinga and his co-pilot went missing in action on March 26, 1970 when their O-1G Birddog aircraft failed to return to base from a familiarization flight over Laos.

The Defense Department's POW/MIA Spokeswoman Air Force Maj. Carie Parker said some 83,000 service members remained missing. "There is an ongoing effort by the US government to recover remains from conflicts as far back as World War II," she said.

From the Vietnam War specifically, 1,687 servicemen are still missing. The statement did not say when Elzinga's remains were recovered or in what condition.

Joint U.S.-Lao People's Democratic Republic teams conducted investigations between 1994 and 2009 to recover remains of missing personnel.

(Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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