FITTON, CROSLEY JAMES JR. Remains Returned 21 December 1975
Name: Crosley James Fitton, Jr. Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 28 February 1933 Home City of Record: Hartford CT (family in Salina KS) Date of Loss: 29 February 1968 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 205500N 1054600E (WJ797129) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F105F Refno: 1066
Other Personnel in Incident: Cleveland S. Harris (remains returned)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998.
REMARKS: 751221 SRV RET REMS
SYNOPSIS: The F105 Thunderchief (or "Thud") performed yoeman service on many diversified missions in Southeast Asia. F105s flew more combat missions over North Vietnam than any other USAF aircraft and consequently suffered the heaviest losses in action.
Maj. Crosley J. Fitton, Jr. was the pilot and Capt. Cleveland S. Harris was the co-pilot of an F105F which was one in a flight of four F105s sent on a combat mission on the outskirts of Hanoi on February 29, 1968.
During the mission, the aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile (SAM). Others in the flight observed both Fitton and Harris bail out with good parachutes. The flight leader tracked both on radar and picked up both emergency radio beeper signals. The beepers, which must be manually shut off, stopped shortly after the crewmen landed on the ground.
Although Fitton and Harris landed safely on the ground, it was not certain what happened to them after that. Both were declared Missing in Action. Their families resigned themselves to the long wait.
In the spring of 1973, 591 American POWs were released by the Vietnamese, but Harris and Fitton were not among them. Military officials expressed their dismay at the time that hundreds of men known or suspected to be prisoners were not released.
In 1975, the Vietnamese discovered and returned the remains of Crosley J. Fitton. It was another ten years before Harris was to return. His remains were turned over to U.S. control in April of 1985.
Nearly 2500 Americans did not return from the war in Vietnam. Thousands of reports have been received indicating that some hundreds remain alive in captivity. As in the case of Fitton and Harris, Vietnam and her communist allies can account for most of them. Current "negotiations" between the U.S. and Vietnam have yielded the remains of nearly 300 Americans. The families of these men at last have the peace of knowing whether their loved one is alive or dead.
In the total view of the issue of the missing, however, the return of remains signals no progress. In the early 1980's the very credible Congressional testimony of a Vietnamese mortician indicated that the Vietnamese are in possession of over 400 sets of remains. In 15 years, they have returned barely half of them. More importantly, the same credible witness, whose testimony is believed throughout Congress, stated that he had seen live Americans held at the same location where the remains were stored.
As long as even one American remains alive in captivity in Solutheast Asia, the only issue is that one living man. We must bring them home before there are only remains to negotiate for.