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Remains of Utah Vietnam War pilot return home after 50 years

Posted at 5:26 PM, Nov 09, 2023

AMERICAN FORK, Utah — The remains of a Vietnam War pilot from Utah have finally returned home 50 years after he went missing.

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Jim Chipman was shot down over North Vietnam on Dec. 27, 1972. Despite decades of searching. Chipman's remains were not positively identified until this summer.

Chipman's casket arrived at Salt Lake City International Airport to a full military detail Thursday afternoon, with his widow, Susan Richards, and two sons, Scot and Matthew, receiving the casket.

"We're just so happy and so much celebrating the fact that we do have part of him that we can have here in a cemetery and honor him. But the end result is he's still not here," said Richards. "I was always the kind that just thought, nothing like this would ever happen. You know, everything's gonna be all right and he's going to come home.

"But that isn't the way it turned out."

Chipman's boys were 4 years old and 18 months old when their father died.

According to the Navy, Chipman was piloting an A-6A Intruder when his aircraft lost radio communication after entering the target area and never returned to base. While he was declared Killed in Action in July, 1974, Chipman's body was never located.

However, excavations over the past few months were able to find Chipman’s dog tag, some bone fragments, and teeth positively matching him through DNA testing and dental evidence.

Chipman will be remembered on Saturday as residents of American Fork and others are invited to line Center Street to welcome his remains home. A graveside service will be held at the American Fork Cemetery with full miltary honors and a scheduled fly-by.