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Remains of last 2 Australia MIAs in Vietnam return

The remains of Australia's last two servicemen missing in action from the war in Vietnam were returned to their homeland Monday, escorted by family and members of their air squadron.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The remains of Australia's last two servicemen missing in action from the war in Vietnam were returned to their homeland Monday, escorted by family and members of their air squadron.

The remains of Flying Officer Michael Herbert and Pilot Officer Robert Carver were found last month at a remote jungle site where their bomber crashed 39 years ago.

After an official handover in Hanoi a day earlier, the two flag-draped coffins were honored at a military ceremony at the Richmond air base outside Sydney.

"They paid the ultimate sacrifice in serving their country," Defense Personnel Minister Greg Combet said at the service. "Australia can finally lay these brave airmen to rest and honor their memory."

When Australia withdrew its last combat troops from Vietnam in late 1971, the bodies of six Australians remained behind. All have now been found and repatriated.

Official interest in Australia for finding and repatriating Australia's missing war dead was revived in 2007 after a veterans' organization found the bodies of two soldiers. Another soldier was found that year, with a fourth found last year.

The hunt for the two airmen, however, was complicated because no one knew where they had crashed.

The two airmen, both 24, went missing Nov. 3, 1970, after a night bombing mission over central Vietnam. It is not known what caused their crash.

In April, a search conducted by the Australian army history unit found wreckage in thick jungle on a hillside in remote Quang Nam province, near the Laos border.

The remains of the men were found in July and identified by Vietnamese and Australian forensic specialists.

The United States still has nearly 1,800 servicemen unaccounted for throughout Southeast Asia following the war, which ended in 1975. Some 1,335 are unaccounted for in Vietnam alone.