Vietnam Pilot's Remains Returning to Savannah - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/23/05

Vietnam Pilot's Remains Returning to Savannah

It's a family tragedy, a war story four decades in the making of a father, missing and likely killed in the Vietnam War. Thanks to the help of a Vietnamese farmer in South Vietnam, the remains of Capt. David Joseph Phillips were found and identified.

His family certainly feels a sense of closure, because all these years they didn't know whether their father was dead or alive and being held as a POW.

Capt. Phillips began his tour of Vietnam on July 3, 1966 and it ended that same day, when his fighter plane was shot down. 

"He completed his mission and was on his way back when he was shot down by enemy fire," said his daughter, Davida Stubbs.

Davida never met her father. Her mother was pregnant while her father was deployed, and for 39 years, Davida and her family have wondered if he was dead or alive.

Just yesterday, that question was answered. Human remains and belongings found on a South Vietnam farm in a grave dug by a Vietnamese farmer turned out to be those of Capt. Phillips.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" she said. "You just don't hear that! We were at war with them."

It turns out the plane went down on a farm. The farmer buried Capt. Phillips. That first grave was disturbed by animals.

"So he regathered Dad, buried him in a deeper grave, put a rock on it, painted the rock, and he's done everything he could without getting in trouble to help the Americans find Dad," Davida told us.

So Capt. Phillips will now be buried at Bonaventure Cemetery, and the family wants everyone to celebrate his life and return home to the United States so he can rest in peace.

"I want to see that cemetery packed," said Davida.

The memorial service will be held on July 3, the anniversary of the day his plane went down. It's at Bonaventure Cemetery at 1:15pm and it is open to the public.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com

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