Friday, November 10, 2000

Piecing Together the Clues

Vietnam War:

Case of the
lone tooth

James Jefferson
1st Lt. James M Jefferson

On May 12, 1967, 1st Lt. James M. Jefferson and Col. Norman C. Gaddis were flying a mission over North Vietnam when their F-4 Phantom was shot down. Only one parachute was seen drifting down after their fighter jet burst into flames. Gaddis was captured. Jefferson was reported missing. On March 3, 1982, he was presumed killed. In 1988 a Central Identification Laboratory (CILHI) recovery team found local residents who recalled the dogfight and said the body was buried near the crash site. Years of testing followed, but it was not until 1996 that plane fragments were found. Two more years of investigation followed, and on Nov. 5, 1998, during a one-month excavation, a single tooth was found. Six months later, a few bone fragments were unearthed. Further digs uncovered more plane wreckage, but the only large pieces of bone recovered were from his legs.

Map Skeleton Illus. tooth
(Remains recovered shown in brown.)

Special to the Star-Bulletin
Patty Foxx displays a missing-in-action bracelet honoring
her brother, James Jefferson, at his funeral
in Florida last month.

Although only fragments of Jefferson's skeleton remained, the laboratory positively identified him from the single remaining tooth, his lower left molar. His remains were laid to rest with full military honors in Gainesville, Fla., on Oct. 20, 2000.

CILHI policy prevents photographs of remains from being published.
All bones and teeth photographed are replicas.

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