50 Years After Navy Pilot Disappeared in Vietnam, He's Finally Coming Home to Family


More than 50 years after vanishing into a thunderstorm at sea, a Vietnam veteran is finally being laid to rest.

Navy Reserve Cmdr. Charles B. Goodwin of Haskell, Texas, was 25 years old when he last climbed into his cockpit of an RF-8A Crusader and flew off the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea on Sept. 8, 1965.

According to The Associated Press, Goodwin was on a Vietnam War combat photo mission when he started what would be his final flight. Minutes after takeoff, Goodwin communicated that he was in a thunderstorm.

That was his last transmission.

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Searches ensued for the missing pilot, including sea and land searches, but no aircraft wreckage or human remains were found. Goodwin was listed as missing in action as of Sept. 8, 1965.

Now, the Navy pilot’s remains will be returned to his family more than 50 years later after being identified in May 2017.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reported that in 1988, a Vietnamese refugee provided information about Goodwin’s possible remains.

“Between April 1993 and December 2016, multiple attempts were made by the Vietnamese Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) and Joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) teams to locate the crash site, but attempts were unsuccessful,” the DPAA wrote on Oct. 4.

Ultimately, scientists from DPAA were able to identify Goodwin through dental and anthropological analysis of his remains.

At long last, Goodwin is scheduled to be buried on American soil on Oct. 12 at Texas State Veterans Cemetery at Abilene.

According to the DPAA, 1,594 American servicemen and civilians are still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

Goodwin’s name is listed on the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. His name is also included in the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

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“A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for,” DPAA wrote on its website.

While Goodwin did not get to return home the way his family would have wanted, a measure of solace is found in knowing that at last, an American hero has come home.

“Rest In Peace brave warrior,” wrote John Yates on the Stars and Stripes Facebook page. “You will never be forgotten.”

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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