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The remains of two airmen who died during the Vietnam War and an airman who died during World War II have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial, the Defense Department said Oct. 11.
Vietnam casualties Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Pietsch, 31, of Pittsburgh and Maj. Louis Guillermin, 25, of West Chester, Pa., will be buried in a single casket Oct. 16 at Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon said. World War II casualty Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Robert Fenstermacher, 23, of Scranton, Pa., will be buried Oct. 18 at Arlington.
Pietsch and Guillermin were killed on an armed reconnaissance mission April 30, 1968, when their A-26A Invader aircraft crashed in Savannakhet Province in Laos. Witnesses described an explosion on the ground and did not see signs of survivors. Pietsch and Guillermin were listed as missing in action after search and rescue efforts were unsuccessful.
A search mission conducted by officials from the United States and Laos in 1994 found human remains and evidence at the crash site, but was unable to fully survey the site due to unexploded ordnance. In 2006, the unexploded ordnance was cleared and additional human remains were recovered. Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory were able to identify portions of the remains as belonging to Guillermin, but could not identify which of the rest belonged to Pietsch and which belonged to Guillermin. Guillermin’s individual remains were buried Oct. 5 in Broomal, Pa.
Fenstermacher was also on an armed reconnaissance mission when his P-47D Thunderbolt crashed near Petergensfeld, Belgium, on Dec. 26, 1944, killing him. An American officer reported seeing the crash and recovered Fenstermacher’s identification tags from the burning wreckage, but Fenstermacher’s body was not recovered.
After World War II ended, the U.S. Army Graves Registration Service investigated Fenstermacher’s death and a local Belgian woman said an aircraft crashed into the side of her house. But investigators were unable to find the crash site. In 2012, local historians excavated a yard and found human remains — which were later shown to be Fenstermacher’s — and wreckage consistent with a P-47D.