Daughter to bury father missing for 50 years in Vietnam

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows Lt. Commander Frederick P. Crosby in his official Navy portrait. (U.S. Navy via AP)

By JULIE WATSON

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — More than half a century ago, Deborah Crosby was sent home from the first grade to find military officers in her living room and her mother distraught: Her father’s Navy plane had been shot down in northern Vietnam, and he was presumed dead, though his body had not been found.

Her mother could never talk about that day, but she gave Crosby and her three brothers a binder with articles about her father’s plane zooming low through the clouds on a bomb damage assessment mission before it was gunned down by North Vietnamese ground forces in 1965. The 31-year-old pilot was armed only with cameras, his daughter said.

Crosby and her grandmother made a pact to someday bring home the remains of Lt. Commander Frederick P. Crosby and bury him in his hometown of San Diego.

A year ago, military investigators found his remains and on Friday, Crosby will fulfill that promise to her late grandmother by receiving her father’s casket at the airport in San Diego. On Sunday, Frederick Crosby will be buried at Rosecrans National Cemetery with full military honors and a Navy flyover.

Crosby never doubted the fact that her father was killed. But her grief seemed to linger in a deep space inside her until she received news that his remains had been recovered, finally giving her closure.

“It just changed my life in so many ways,” said the energy consultant who lives in New York. “It relieved a lot of sadness that I’ve been carrying around in my heart very quietly.”

The U.S. military actively searches for missing service members from conflicts worldwide. According to the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, 969 missing service members have been accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, while the whereabouts of 1,611 remain a mystery.

Crosby called to inquire regularly about the military’s progress on her father’s case. She attended meetings of the National League, and analyzed where the crash occurred in Thanh Hoa province on Google Earth. She poured over news reels and reports at the Library of Congress and provided a sample of her aunt’s blood to the military to have a DNA match on file in case his remains were ever found.

Decades passed and her mother and grandmother both died before investigators got a breakthrough on their third trip to the area when they met Pham Van Truong, a lifelong resident of Nam Ngan ward in Thanh Hoa City.