January 13, 2010

COMING HOME - Maj. Russell C. Goodman USAF

Maj. Russell C. Goodman, a U.S. Air Force pilot that was killed in action in Vietnam on Feb. 20, 1967. At the time of his loss, Major Goodman was assigned to the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” at Nellis Air Force Base and was flying with the U.S. Navy on an exchange program.

Officials with the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced Jan. 12 that the remains of an Air Force pilot, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial.

Maj. Russell C. Goodman of Salt Lake City, Utah, will be honored at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., home of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbird demonstration team. At the time he was lost, Major Goodman was assigned to the Thunderbirds and was flying with the U.S. Navy on an exchange program. He will be buried in Alaska at a date determined by his family.

On Feb. 20, 1967, Major Goodman and Navy Lt. Gary L. Thornton took off in their F-4B Phantom from the USS Enterprise for a bombing mission against a railroad yard in Thanh Hoa Province, North Vietnam. They were struck by enemy antiaircraft fire and their plane exploded. Lieutenant Thornton was able to eject at just 250 feet altitude, but Major Goodman did not escape. Lieutenant Thornton survived and was held captive until his release in 1973.

Search and rescue attempts were curtailed because of heavy anti-aircraft and automatic weapons fire in the area of the crash.

Between October 1993 and March 2008, joint U.S.-Vietnamese teams led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command investigated the crash site twice and conducted two excavations, recovering human remains and pilot equipment. The aircraft debris recovered correlates with the type of aircraft the men were flying.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA, which matched two of his maternal relatives, in the identification of Goodman's remains.

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