|Birth: ||Nov. 1, 1937|
|Death: ||Apr. 11, 1965, Laos|
Forty-seven years after Lt. William Swanson of Brooklyn Center was shot down in the mountains of Laos, he is finally coming home.
The Vietnam War attack-plane pilot, a University of Minnesota graduate, will be buried Monday with full military honors at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. In the years since he went missing, his parents have died, but his brother, sister and other relatives will be present.
On April 11, 1965, Swanson led his Skyraider group through thunderstorms to the mountainous jungle around the Ho Chi Minh Trail, hunting for Viet Cong supply trucks. Swanson made several low passes and was returning for another look at a suspected vehicle when he was hit by antiaircraft fire, a wing pilot reported later.
A citation he would receive later with a Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions that day described what happened next:
"His craft was last observed to be enveloped by hostile antiaircraft fire, following which it commenced a steep gliding turn and crashed into the jungle. Lt. Swanson's cool, daring and professional airmanship on this extremely hazardous mission was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
As Swanson's bomber plummeted, the wing pilot watched in vain for a parachute. The other bombers returned to the Ranger to refuel then returned to search for Swanson's plane. But thick jungle concealed the wreckage, and enemy forces in the area made further recovery efforts impossible, military officials said.
In 2009, a team excavated the site and found charred bits of the plane and equipment.
A year later, another team finished the work, recovering human remains and other evidence. Military scientists from the POW/MIA Accounting Command used bone fragments and other evidence to identify Swanson's remains. Bob Swanson said searchers found bones, links from a wristwatch and parts of dog tags.
Swanson posthumously received a Purple Heart and a gold star for his second Distinguished Flying Cross for his final mission. He also was awarded two air medals and the Navy commendation medal with valor for his service.
Published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Fort Snelling National Cemetery
Plot: Section 27, Site 855
Created by: Steve Edquist ~In Memory...
Record added: Jun 11, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 91742483