Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

After 44 Years, Bittersweet Burial for Family of Missing U.S. Officer

Credit: VFW Post 3377

Forty-four years have passed since Air Force pilot Larry J. Hanley died in the Vietnam War. On Saturday, his family will finally lay him to rest at a cemetery in Walla Walla.

In 1969, Hanley was 26 years old when his family learned that his plane went down over Laos.

“All these years we anticipated that he would not come back alive, but you still wanted to know what happened,” said his older sister, Darlene Allen of Kirkland.

Allen kept an old flight helmet of her brother's for years. A few strands of his red hair still in that helmet last year helped the military confirm a DNA match from a newly-found crash site. Investigators believe he died on impact.

Hanley's other sister, JoAnn Aliverti of Walla Walla, says finally burying his remains is “bittersweet.”

“We, you know, are sad that he did die. But we're now celebrating bringing him home,” Aliverti said.

An internal Pentagon report recently turned up by the Associated Press describes a “dysfunctional and sluggish” system that searches for the remains of missing soldiers. It is believed there are more than 80,000 service members dating back to World War II who still haven't been found.

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.