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Flying Memorial for Vietnam's MIA

By Megan Esau and Nicole Kiefert

July 25, 2015Boeing Plaza is a retired Grumman Mohawk OV-1 covered in names. The names are those of the 1,636 U.S. Army soldiers who, as of January 2015, were still listed as MIA from the Vietnam War—missing in action.

“Every one of these names has a family associated with it who has never gotten closure, and it’s our job to make sure these people are not forgotten,” said the aircraft’s acting crew chief, Justin Goss.

During the Vietnam War, the OV-1 was commissioned as an observation and reconnaissance aircraft.

This particular OV-1 retired in 1996 and was bought seven years ago by aerobatic pilot Joe Masessa, who this spring had the aircraft’s fuselage and vertical stabilizers painted with the names to pay homage to America’s missing Vietnam soldiers.

Justin said many attendees this week learned of the aircraft and came to share stories and look for the names of their family members.

“I’ve spoken with dozens of people at the air show over the week who their grandfathers, their fathers, their brothers, sisters, uncles are on the aircraft, and they are extremely touched by the sentiment we’re going for here because this is as much closure as they have,” Justin said.

“They never got a body back; that never happened.”

He said as MIA individuals continue to be recovered from Vietnam, the OV-1’s crew places an American flag next to their name on the aircraft. Since the aircraft was painted, 12 bodies have been recovered and returned home to families.

“There’s American teams over there, and there will be from here on out until everyone’s found,” Justin said. “That’s their job…That’s the American motto: Leave no man behind."

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