SAN DIEGO -- For decades, Lt. Commander Frederick Crosby, a U.S. Navy pilot who flew reconnaissance planes and was based out of Miramar Air Station, was a hero missing in action.
“He was armed with cameras. His job was to take photographs of bomb assessments or landscape,” Crosby's daughter, Deborah, told FOX 5.
In 1965, the Naval commander left for the Vietnam War. On June 1, as Crosby flew over North Vietnam, his plane went down.
“The plane was hit by ground fire and it rolled and crashed and it crashed right next to a villager,” Deborah said.
The aircraft went missing and the pilot was never found. He left behind a young wife and four very young children.
“After it happened, we just didn’t talk about it too much because it was just something we kind of held inside," Deborah said.
Years passed but Deborah never forgot. She began a quest to find her father. After endless letters to and from the U.S. military, she learned there was hope.
“They had been to my dad’s site a couple of times interviewing witnesses, using metal detectors to try and find wreckage," Deborah said.
At least three searches were conducted, but nothing was found, so Deborah convinced her Aunt Sharon to submit DNA.
“It was difficult to send blood across stateliness, so we had a couple of hurdles there," Deborah said.
Then, in 2015, searchers ran into the same villager that saw the plane crash 50 years ago.
“He was able to point to exactly where to dig because he was standing right next to the levee when the plane crashed near him," Deborah said.
The wreckage was found, nearly perfectly preserved in the mud of the levee into which it crashed.
“They found my dad’s wedding ring, his lighter, parts of his uniform and aircraft and, of course, remains," Deborah said.
Now, after decades of hard work, perseverance and heartbreak, Crosby will return home to San Diego and be laid to rest with full honors at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
“I didn’t think this was ever really going to happen so it is a dream come true," Deborah said.