Washington lawmakers trying to help bring pilot's remains back from Vietnam

By Geoff Folsom Tri-City HeraldJune 12, 2014 

Terri Francisco-Farrell

U.S. Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., meets with Terri Francisco-Farrell, left, of Kennewick, who is seeking to locate the remains of her brother shot down in the Vietnam War.


A Kennewick woman who is trying to bring her brother's remains back from Vietnam got some good news on a trip to Washington, D.C.

Terri Francisco-Farrell met Thursday with Sen. Patty Murray, Rep. Doc Hastings and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers about Maj. San D. Francisco, the copilot of an F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber shot down Nov. 25, 1968.

American and Vietnamese officials told Hastings last week that the investigation to find Francisco's remains is moving forward, Francisco-Farrell said.

"He said it comes from a reliable source that they are actively on the case," Francisco-Farrell said.

Hastings' visit to Vietnam was part of a Congressional delegation that made a stop there on an international trip, said Jenny Gorski, his chief of staff.

"Congressman Hastings was optimistic that they have some credible leads and they are working on bringing (Francisco's) remains back," she said.

Francisco-Farrell plans to meet with casualty officers who are working on her brother's case Friday .

Investigators last summer went to the site in Quanf Binh province where her brother's plane went down in 1968, but were unable to find his remains. A second trip was supposed to start recently, but the status of that mission is uncertain.

Francisco-Farrell thought she would be meeting with one of Murray's staff members, so she was surprised when the senator herself came into the room, she said.

Murray sent a letter to Alisa Stack, who is overseeing the merger of the two Defense Department agencies responsible for recovering remains, because of her concerns about delays caused by budget cuts.

Murray asks Stack in the letter to take action to find Francisco as soon as possible because the witnesses to his burial are aging.

"Without action in the near future, these witnesses may not live to assist in the recovery of Maj. Francisco's remains," Murray wrote.

Francisco-Farrell was also scheduled to meet with a representative from Sen. Maria Cantwell's office Thursday afternoon, spokesman Jared Leopold said.

"All of our Washington state representatives are behind me 100 percent," Francisco-Farrell said. "It feels very nice."

Francisco-Farrell knew for decades that her brother had been shot down, but didn't find out the details until last year. A commander of North Vietnamese ground forces during the war told investigators that Francisco was captured after breaking his legs while landing hard. The enemy troops came under attack from U.S. warplanes and jumped into a trench, leaving Francisco to be killed by a bomb.

The Vietnamese buried Francisco, a 1962 Kennewick High School graduate, but exhumed his body to photograph for propaganda purposes three days later. They reburied him in the same grave.

Francisco-Farrell, who made the trip to D.C. with the help of the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition, did run into one problem Thursday. Her luggage did not arrive on her flight with her, so she had to meet the elected officials wearing the same clothes she wore on the flight.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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