Remains returned - announced 06/2005
Name: Darel Dean Leetun
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 24 December 1932
Home City of Record: Hettinger ND
Date of Loss: 17 September 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 213900N 1063000E (XJ552946)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F105D
Refno: 0460
Other Personnel In Incident:
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 from one or more
of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources,
correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK  2005.
SYNOPSIS: The F105 Thunderchief ("Thud"), in its various versions, flew more
missions against North Vietnam than any other U.S. aircraft. It also
suffered more losses, partially due to its vulnerability, which was
constantly under revision.
Maj. Darel D. Leetun was an F105D pilot assigned a combat mission over North
Vietnam on September 17, 1966. When Leetun was over Lang Son Province about
halfway between the cities of Kep and Loc Binh, the aircraft was shot down.
The possibility that Leetun ejected safely existed, and he was classified
Missing in Action. The U.S. believes the Vietnamese could probably account
for him, but they deny knowledge of him.
Nearly 2500 Americans did not come home from the war in Vietnam. In nearly
half those cases, there is ample reason to believe that the Vietnamese and
their communist allies know the fates of the men. Some hundred were known to
be held as prisoners, and some were photographed in captivity.
Years after our military involvement ended, reports of Americans held
captive continue to mount. Thousands of reports have been received
indicating that Americans are still being held prisoner in Southeast Asia.
The U.S. Government continues to press the Vietnamese for information, as it
has for nearly 15 years. The U.S. views the problem as humanitarian, while
the Vietnamese are concerned with reconstruction aid promised by signed
agreement but not delivered. Until we are willing to negotiate for their
release, these Americans will die in communist prisons wondering why their
country abandoned them.
Darel D. Leetun was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the
period he was maintained missing.
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
No. 656-05
Jun 29, 2005
Air Force Officer MIA from Vietnam War is Identified
The Department of Defense POW/MIA Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today
that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam
War, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial.
He is Air Force Lt. Col. Darel D. Leetun of Hettinger, N.D. Leetun will be
buried with full military honors July 8 at Arlington National Cemetery.
On Sept. 17, 1966, Leetun led a bombing mission over Lang Son province,
North Vietnam when his F-105D 'Thunderchief' aircraft was hit by enemy fire.
Other pilots in the flight observed the aircraft crash, but did not receive
emergency beeper signals nor observe a parachute.
Vietnamese and U.S. specialists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
(JPAC) conducted three investigations between 1991 and 1995 as they sought
information on Leetun's crash site.  During one of the investigations,
Vietnamese villagers led investigators to a hillside location where human
remains were found. Additional site investigations by a Vietnam team and a
JPAC team in 1999 and 2004 respectively yielded no new evidence.
JPAC scientists and Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory specialists
used mitochondrial DNA as one of the forensic tools to help identify the
remains as those of Leetun.
Of those Americans unaccounted-for from all conflicts, 1,833 are from the
Vietnam War, with 1,397 of those within the country of Vietnam.  Another 750
Americans have been accounted for in Southeast Asia since the end of the
Vietnam War.  Of the Americans identified, 524 are from within Vietnam.