Vietnam War Pilot Gets Arlington Burial After 46 Years

Thursday, 27 Dec 2012 09:19 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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An Idaho man has finally laid his father to rest in Arlington National Cemetery — some 46 years after the Vietnam War pilot perished in the jungles of Laos.

“It’s a good thing to have him back on U.S. soil,’’ Kevin Hocevar of Boise told the Idaho Statesman.

Hocevar was only a month old when his 28-year-old dad, Army Reserve Capt. James “Monty’’ Johnstone, died in the crash of his OV-1A Mohawk attack aircraft on Nov. 19, 1966.

But because of escalated fighting, his remains could not be recovered — something Hocevar wanted to remedy as he grew up.

In 1993, a search team located evidence that tentatively identify the crash site, but it wasn’t until 14 years later that concrete evidence — a villager producing Johnstone’s American Express card — was found.

Search teams excavated the crash site, located in the Attapu Province, but initially found no human remains.

But after two more visits in 2008 and 2009, they uncovered human teeth, which dental records confirmed belonged to Johnstone and his co-pilot Maj. James Whited. A piece of Johnstone’s military identification card was also located.

After Hocevar reviewed the findings with the Department of Defense, a proper burial was conducted at Arlington on Dec. 12, complete with a three-gun salute.

Hocevar, who changed his name from Johnstone after his mother remarried, was able to find out about his father’s final moments from John Pfeiffer, a wingman flying alongside Johnstone.

“He told me he has the last eight seconds framed of my dad’s life,’’ Hocevar told the Statesman. “He can see my dad hunched over the stick, just going straight down in a fireball. He’s carried that for a long time.”

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