WEST SACRAMENTO — The remains of a U.S. Navy fighter pilot shot down over North Vietnam in 1966 have been identified, allowing the military to remove him from its list of servicemen missing in action.
Richard Laws, 26, was presumed dead after his plane went down and exploded on a hillside 47 years ago.
Because DNA typing technology was not available until recent years, the remains recovered from the crash site could not be confirmed as those of Laws, the Sacramento Bee reported.
The West Sacramento native’s family will gather May 10 at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., for a funeral.
His widow, Karen Laws Engelke, who has travelled to the crash site, said the upcoming services are important to the family.
Laws had a dry sense of humor, and was athletic and bright, Engelke remembered.
When he was shot down, Laws was on his second tour of duty with his unit, Attack Squadron 24 on board the USS Hancock.
Laws had grown weary of war when he returned for the second tour, Engelke said.
“He had to buck up every single day to get into that plane to take off,” she said.
Engelke said she visited the crash site near the remote Vietnamese village of Xuan Du with the couple’s daughter in 2006, and left memorial ribbons.
Laws’ son, Richard, is a physician and Army veteran; his daughter, Cheryl, a former Naval aviator, now works in the nuclear shipping industry.