The remains of Lt. Cmdr. Frederick P. Crosby — shot down as a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War — arrived home in San Diego Friday, ending a more than 52-year search to find him, The Associated Press is reporting.
Crosby’s family watched as his flag-draped casket was removed by sailors from a Delta Air Lines jet at Lindbergh Field and transferred to an awaiting hearse, according to the AP.
Crosby’s daughter Deborah, 58, and her three brothers hugged “in a tearful embrace on the tarmac,” as their father arrived home, the AP report continued.
He was just 31 when he was killed in 1965, but his body was never recovered.
Deborah Crosby pursued her father’s case with officials, even after her mother and grandmother passed.
The breakthrough in finding Frederick Crosby came when U.S. military investigators discovered remains in a fish pond in north Vietnam after interviewing Pham Van Truong, a lifelong resident of Nam Ngan ward in Thanh Hoa City, according to the AP.
“According to a 50-page report given to Deborah Crosby, the 89-year-old man told investigators he couldn’t recall the month or year, but he remembered during the war that he was cooking limestone to reinforce his house when he heard gunfire and ran to the nearby levee to investigate. He saw two planes headed toward his house, and one was on fire as it glided toward the levee. He said he could see its wing and tail surfaces were missing. The aircraft rolled as it hit the fish pond in front of his house, splashing Van Truong with water and mud. The other aircraft kept flying toward the sea.
“Based on the new information, U.S. military investigators decided to comb the bottom of the pond in 2015. When they emptied it bucket by bucket, they found bones, pieces of fabric from the pilot’s uniform, his chrome lighter and wedding band,” the AP reported.
It was Deborah’s father.
On Sunday the lieutenant commander will be buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery with full military honors and a Navy flyover, according to the AP report.
Even though her father’s remains were missing for decades, Deborah — who was a first-grader in 1965 — never doubted he was killed in action. And now that he’s been found, she told the AP she has closure.
“It just changed my life in so many ways. It relieved a lot of sadness that I’ve been carrying around in my heart very quietly.”