Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pilot's Fate Finally Resolved for Family; Navy Flier Was Shot Down in Vietnam in 1972 and Only Recently Declared Dead

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pilot's Fate Finally Resolved for Family; Navy Flier Was Shot Down in Vietnam in 1972 and Only Recently Declared Dead

Article excerpt

Byline: ZACH FRIDELL, The Times-Union

After three decades of questions, doubts, hope and scraps of information, a Jacksonville family finally has closure on the fate of a Navy pilot shot down in Vietnam.

Cmdr. Thomas Earl Dunlop, who was from Jacksonville, was shot down over a remote area of Vietnam in 1972. His wingman reported seeing him gunned down, but the remains of his aircraft stayed hidden until several years ago and were conclusively identified a few months ago by the Department of Defense. He was listed as missing in action until some remnants of his clothing were identified, and he was declared dead.

About a couple dozen members of Dunlop's family will pay their final respects in a memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, something they've planned since hearing the news. The family, including three of Dunlop's four children, will attend a full military funeral with a casket, Navy band and rifle salute, despite not having a body to bury.

"We're happy there is this final closure, after so many years of nothing," said his sister, Gail Hull-Ryde of Jacksonville. "As far as those children are concerned, their dad is right there in that casket, that box."

Hull-Ryde said the official report, which was issued only to Dunlop's son, concludes that the crash site excavated by a team in Vietnam is definitely the wreckage of the A-7E Corsair II jet Dunlop was flying. Dunlop was the only pilot in that kind of aircraft in that area at the time. That, combined with the other items found at the crash site, allowed the team of seven investigators to conclude Dunlop had died.

Dunlop enlisted in the Navy in 1952 after graduating from Fletcher High School and attending two years of school at the University of Florida. Within months of attaining the rank of captain, Dunlop was shot down on April 6, 1972. The wingman flying next to Dunlop reported he didn't see a parachute as the plane crashed. …

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