The remains of an Aggie Air Force pilot have been recovered and positively identified, 48 years after he was shot down during the Vietnam War.
Col. William “Bill” Campbell ’52 will be interred in May at Arlington National Cemetery with his wife.
His family learned just before Christmas that the military had identified remains found in 2014 through the use of mitochondrial DNA testing.
Christmas 1968 was their last together as a family with him. A month later, Campbell’s plane was shot down over Laos. It would be a decade before he was classified “killed in action – body not recovered.”
In 1991, anonymous Thai citizens turned his Aggie Ring over to a Department of Defense POW/MIA team in Bangkok.
His widow, Claretta “Boo” Campbell, wore it until her death in 1995.
She had expressed her wish that the Ring be donated to Texas A&M, and during a special ceremony at the Clayton W. Williams, Jr., Alumni Center in 2002, the Campbells’ four children and eight grandchildren did just that. The Ring remains displayed by The Association of Former Students.
Daughter Cathy Campbell said, “It’s been 15 years since we brought the Ring to Texas A&M, and I had always hoped that eventually we would get some remains… I knew that there was a really good chance that would never happen for our family in my lifetime.”
She said many families are still seeking closure, and her father’s bombardier/navigator is still unaccounted for.
“My hope is eventually they will get some positively identified remains as well, but for them it hasn’t happened yet.”
“Texas Aggies Go To War,” published in 2006, listed 20 Aggies including Campbell as missing in action in Laos or Vietnam.
Campbell’s casket will be escorted from Honolulu to Dallas and on to Washington, D.C., by his daughter’s son-in-law who is also an Air Force pilot and has long worn an MIA bracelet with Campbell’s name on it. On the tarmac for the arrival in D.C. will be friends and family including high school and A&M Classmate Col. Ralph Dresser ’52.
Campbell’s remains in the casket are to be covered with a full dress uniform bearing all his medals, which include the Silver Star and Purple Heart. He will be buried, and Claretta Campbell’s urn reburied with him, May 18 at Arlington.
Below: Texas A&M former students* listed as missing in action in Laos and Vietnam in “Texas Aggies Go To War” (2006), by Henry C. Dethloff with John A. Adams, Jr., ’73:
*Lt. Donald J. Matocha’s Class year is 1967, though he graduated early.
Media contact: Kathryn Greenwade, 979-845-7514 or KGreenwade88@AggieNetwork.com
This story originally appeared on The Association of Former Students website.