Remains Of American Airman Who Laid Down His Life In Vietnam Are Returned To The USA For Honored Burial

1st Lt. William C. Ryan
1st Lt. William C. Ryan

Marine Corps Reserve 1st Lt. William C. Ryan, of Hoboken, New Jersey, was 25 when he was killed in action during the Vietnam War.

A member of the Marine Fighter Attack Force 115, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force Pacific, he was on a combat mission above Savannakhet Province, Laos, serving as the radar intercept officer of an F-4B aircraft on May 11, 1969. The plane was hit by enemy fire while pulling out of a bombing pass. The pilot was unable to control the airplane after being hit.

He called several times for Ryan, but received no response. The pilot ejected before the plane crashed. Witnesses reported only one parachute leaving the plane. The pilot was rescued but, due to the location of the crash, a search and recovery effort was not possible at the time. Ryan was declared dead as of May 11, 1969.

In the period between January 1990 to May 2012, joint teams from the US, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and the Vietnamese Office for Seeking Missing Persons interviewed people who had witnessed the crash in order to gain information about Ryan.

During the period from May 2012 to January 2016, joint teams made a total of six trips to excavate the crash site that was believed to be Ryan’s near Ban Alang Noi. They recovered life support items, aircraft wreckage and remains, possibly human. On February 17, 2016, the remains were shipped to the Defense POW/MIA Accountability Agency (DPAA) laboratory for analysis.

DPAA scientists used dental comparisons, isotope analysis, and circumstantial evidence to positively identify the remains as Ryan’s.

Ryan’s remains will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reported.

The DPAA recognized the support of Laos was instrumental to recovering Ryan’s remains.

There are still 1,611 servicemen and civilians unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE