Remains Of Lakewood Serviceman Returned From Vietnam
The remains of two U.S. servicemen missing in action from the Vietnam War have been returned to their families.
Air Force Lt. Col. Charles M. Walling, of Phoenix, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in June.
The U.S. Department of Defense says he and Maj. Aado Kommendant, of Lakewood will be buried as a group at the cemetery on Wednesday. The burial will take place on the 46th anniversary of the crash that took their lives.
Walling and Kommendant were flying an F-4C aircraft when they crashed over Song Be Province, Vietnam on Aug 8, 1966. A search for them in the days following the crash was unsuccessful.
Walling’s metal identification tag was recovered in 1994. An excavation of the crash site in 2010 turned up human remains.
Aado Kommendant’s Biography
Aado was born in Paide, Estonia, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Verner Kommendant, and came to the United States in March 1950, with his family. He had a sister, Maie, and a brother, Viido. His father owned a sand and gravel trucking company.
Voted “best looking” by Lakewood High School Class of 1960, his listing in the Pine Needle yearbook of that year indicated he was headed for college and his goal was to be a businessman. He was considered an authority on cars and had a “cool Ford convertible.”
He majored in business administration at the University of Miami in Florida and was in the ROTC program. Kommendant was designated a Distinguished Military Student when he received his college degree in June 1964. He accepted an Air Force commission and went on active duty in July 1964. His goal changed at that time and he spoke of becoming a commercial pilot when he completed five years of military service in 1969.
He entered the US Air Force and attained the rank of Major (MAJ). He arrived in Vietnam in July 1966, and served in the 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron and was stationed at Cam Rhan Bay.
Kommendant was flying his 17th mission when the plane was shot down. He was listed as missing in action on August 8, 1966, in South Vietnam. Kommendant was co-piloting a F-4C Phantom Jet aircraft during a bombing mission about 40 miles northeast of Saigon, South Vietnam. No parachutes were seen and no beepers were heard in the area of dense jungle held by hostile Viet Cong forces. Search and rescue operations for Kommendant and the pilot, Captain Charles M. Walling, were ongoing for two months, until officially terminated on Oct. 10, 1966.
He was listed as Missing in Action and his status remained that way for more than 12 years. He was officially declared killed in action on January 15, 1979, by the Department of the Air Force. Since his remains have not been recovered and returned, he is listed by the Department of Defense as unaccounted for in Southeast Asia.
Kommendant was awarded The Distinguished Flying Cross, The Air Medal and The Purple Heart.
In his high school yearbook, and in articles published in local newspapers at the time of the crash, his last name is spelled Komendant, while subsequent spellings in military records have a double m in the name.
Synopsis (from the POW Network) as to the circumstances behind being listed as MIA:
Kommendant was backseater to flight commander Capt. Charles W. Walling on an F4C Phantom jet called to provide close air support of friendly forces who were in contact with the enemy northeast of Bien Hoa airbase near Saigon.
The two departed Cam Rahn Bay Airbase in South Vietnam and arrived in the target area without incident. They prepared to make bombing runs on a suspected enemy troop concentration, and shortly after the second run, the Forward Air Controller noticed an explosion about two miles southeast of the target. Both he and the flight leader proceeded to the scene as no radio replies were received from Walling’s F4C. Rescue helicopters were alerted and arrived within minutes.
No parachutes were seen, nor were there any emergency radio transmissions. The area of the wreckage could not be seen by the air because of dense foliage, nor could ground troops gain access to the area because it was defended by enemy troops. The last known location of the aircraft was near the juncture of Binh Duong, Bien Hoa, Long Khan and Binh Long Provinces in South Vietnam, about 40 miles northeast of Saigon.
Later that day, Foreign Broadcast Information Service in Okinawa monitored two radio releases from Radio Hanoi regarding the shoot down of an F4 and the killing of two “yankees on board”. Because Walling and Kommendant were aboard the only F4 lost that day in that area, it was felt that if the releases were true, they related to Walling and Kommendant.
Sources: Anne Cullen (volunteer) and NJVVMF.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.