Originally created 07/04/05

Airman is buried after 39 years



SAVANNAH, Ga. - Almost four decades after Air Force Capt. David Joseph Phillips went missing in the jungles of South Vietnam, his recently discovered remains were finally returned to his hometown.

On Sunday, Capt. Phillips was buried in a full military graveside service with more than 200 people - many of them veterans - attending. The ceremony's theme: "Home at Last."

"I'm so happy we have some resolution to this," brother Richard Phillips said. "We finally have an answer."

His brother and the rest of the Phillips clan had wondered since 1966 whether the young airman would ever return after his F5 Tiger jet crashed in a thicket of mangrove trees near Pho Son.

Capt. Phillips' body was never found, and his wife, Peggy, found herself constantly worrying that her husband was suffering daily torture at a prison camp, said Capt. Phillips' daughter Davida Josephine Stubbs.

In 1984, Mrs. Phillips heard that her husband was seen alive in a POW camp, but that rumor was soon squashed. Another time she was convinced she saw him in a Savannah restaurant, bandaged and escorted by other soldiers, Richard Phillips said.

Mrs. Phillips, who died in 1989, even considered a trip to Vietnam to try to find the truth herself.

"Mom went through a roller coaster," Ms. Stubbs said.

The truth finally came in spring 2004 when an excavation of the crash site uncovered human remains. After a Hawaii laboratory confirmed the remains, his relatives worked to have it sent to Savannah for the burial.

Family members finally laid to rest the long-missing pilot, covered by a green wool military blanket pinned to a decorated uniform.

"I slid my hand in there between the blanket and the suit," said Ms. Stubbs, who never got to meet the man she was named for. "Let me tell you, that was a moment."