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January / February 2009

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USAF Col. David H. Zook, Jr. USAF

USAF Capt. Lorenza Conner

USAF Maj. John Lee McElroy

Repatriated: USAF Col. David H. Zook, Jr. USAF Capt. Lorenza Conner USAF Maj. John Lee McElroy  On September 30 and October 8, the Pentagon’s POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced that the remains of USAF Col. David H. Zook, Jr., and Capt. Lorenza Conner, who were listed as MIA in Vietnam, had been identified and were returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Conner was co-piloting an F-4D Phantom II fighter jet on October 27, 1967, on a combat air patrol mission when the plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire over Tuyen Quang Province in North Vietnam. His co-pilot ejected safely, was captured, and later released by Vietnamese forces, but Conner was unable to eject from the aircraft before it crashed

In 1992, Vietnamese citizens turned over Conner’s identification tag to U.S. officials. Over the next 15 years, joint American-Vietnamese teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), investigated the incident, interviewed witnesses, and surveyed the crash site. Human remains were discovered in 2007, and dental comparisons helped identify Conner. He was buried in his hometown of Cartersville, Georgia, on October 25.

On Oct. 4, 1967, Zook was on a psychological warfare operation over Song Be Province, South Vietnam, when his U-10B Super Courier aircraft collided in mid-air with a C-7A Caribou. The C-7 pilot said he saw the other aircraft hit the ground and explode. Several search-and-rescue attempts failed to locate Zook’s remains.

Investigations by JPAC began in 1992. The team interviewed Vietnamese citizens who witnessed the crash and saw remains amid the wreckage, surveyed the site, and found evidence consistent with Zook’s crash, including a small bone fragment. More excavations took place in 1993 that uncovered another bone fragment and small pieces of military clothing. In March 2008, a final excavation was conducted and more human remains recovered. As was the case with Conner, JPAC scientists used that evidence, along with dental comparisons, to identify Zook’s remains.

David H. Zook, Jr., was buried October 4, the 41st anniversary of the day he was shot down, in his home town of West Liberty, Ohio.

On December 18, forty years after he died in a daring rescue mission in Vietnam, Air Force Maj. John Lee McElroy of Eminence, Kentucky, was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. McElroy, a 36-year-old navigator on a C-130, was interred with his crewmates, who also perished when their aircraft was shot down May 12, 1968, while evacuating Special Forces soldiers from a military base being overrun by enemy forces. McElroy was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and the Purple Heart.

McElroy’s remains were recovered and positively identified through DNA testing and dental records earlier this year, following excavation efforts at the crash site.





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