Remains found of last missing Goodhue County Vietnam vet
A Red Wing soldier will be laid to rest on U.S. soil 46 years after his death.
The remains of Maj. Thomas Reitmann, an Air Force fighter pilot, were recently recovered in Vietnam, where he died in 1965 during the war when his plane was shot during an air strike.
Reitmann grew up in Red Wing and graduated from Red Wing High School in 1948, said his cousin Dewey Johnson, who graduated the same year.
He was on the football team and was “just a real nice guy,” Johnson said.
The news that the remains had been recovered came as a surprise to Johnson, who hadn’t seen Reitmann since high school.
“I was just kind of stunned to hear that after so many years,” he said.
It is a common reaction for families receiving this kind of information, said Bob Davis, Goodhue County Veterans Service officer.
“There’s some initial shock and then relief, to finally know for sure,” he said. “There’s a sense of closure, but still the grief even after so many years.”
Reitmann will receive a full military burial at Arlington National Cemetery. His family was notified earlier this week.
Reitmann was married and had four children, Johnson said, the youngest of which was born just six months before Reitmann’s death.
While flying in a bombing strike on a railroad bridge, then-Capt. Reitmann’s plane was hit by enemy fire and crashed. There was no evidence Reitmann had survived the crash, but he was classified as missing in action. He was promoted to major while MIA.
In the summer of 1973, the military determined Reitmann had died in the crash but had not recovered his remains.
Reitmann was killed Dec. 1, 1965, just before his 35th birthday.
Red Wing resident and Vietnam veteran Bud Stolpa maintains a page on Reitmann on an Air Force site that has profiles for all MIA Air Force members.
“It is gratifying to learn that he is finally coming home,” Stolpa said in an email.
Davis said he believed Reitmann was the last missing Goodhue County soldier from the Vietnam War. Another, Maj. Ben Danielson of Kenyon, was found in 2007.
The relatively recent use of DNA testing has made identifying remains much easier, Davis said, and is helping identify not only Vietnam soldiers, but the remains of those who died in World War II and the Korean War as well.
The Department of Defense has a special team based out of Hawaii dedicated to finding soldiers’ remains, Davis said.
There are 14 men from Goodhue County who died during the Vietnam War.
Reitmann will get a special mention during this year’s Field of Honor event, which includes a flag display at Bay Point Park from May 27 through Memorial Day, May 31.
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