Over 25 years ago in 1988, Vietnam Veterans of America, Louis F Guillermin Chapter 436 was chartered in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The chapter wanted a namesake of someone who was missing in action in the Vietnam War. To our knowledge, Major Louis Fulda Guillermin, USAF was the first MIA in our county.
This is his story
Louis joined the Air Force as an Aviation Cadet. He received his pilots training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Louis received further training in radar and celestial navigation instruction at Connelly Air Force Base in Texas. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and awarded his silver wings in April 1964.
He was sent to Vietnam for a tour of duty. He flew counter insurgency missions as a navigator in an A-26A Invader aircraft, converted from a World War II B-26 – a fast twin-engine bomber. The B-26 was redesigned after World War ll for counterinsurgency warfare, its armament updated, and rechristened the A-26A. The aircraft could remain on station for a long time, searching out and attacking an enemy concealed by jungle in the night or bad weather in Southeast Asia
On April 30, 1968, Maj. Louis Fulda Guillermin disappeared over Laos while navigating an A-26A aircraft. This was a night mission to disrupt supply deliveries on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Maj. Guillermin and his pilot, Lt. Col. Robert Pietsch, went down in Savannakhet Province, Laos-about ten miles east of the city of Ban Muong Sen. This was his second tour in South East Asia and It was his first flight since returning from R&R in Hawaii. He was 25 years old. For the pilot of the plane, 31-year-old Robert Pietsch of Pittsburgh, it was to be his last flight before moving to a desk job.
When no bodies could be recovered they were declared Missing in Action in 1973. Louis rose through the ranks to major while on MIA status.
It was roughly 20 years ago when his plane was found, but even then, no one was positive that he had been killed. Within a few kilometers of where his plane went down, there were 20 other crashes as well. No evidence was found other than some bone fragments, which were too charred to retrieve any DNA. In addition, there was still unexploded ordnance, which had to be taken care of before any search for other remains could begin.
Once they could begin excavation, larger bones were found along with Guillermin’s dog tags. Nothing was ever found of the pilot, Robert Pietsch. The remains were taken to a lab in Hawaii where a test was performed using mitochondrial DNA from the bones and samples from the major’s with his remains recovered, Major Guillermin was declared accounted for on 28 May 2013.
The Common Grave in Arlington National Cemetery for unidentified remains from the crash
Memorial Headstone at Arlington. Placed when the Major was MIA
Certificate from the President
As a child
High School Year Book
With his parents
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Photo credit: Chester Hawkins
Louis’ remains were flown, in a full casket, from Honolulu to Philadelphia International Airport on Friday 4 Oct 2013. At the airport there was a dignified transfer conducted by the U.S. Air Force to the funeral director, Edward L. Collins Funeral Home, 86 Pine Street, Oxford.
In addition to his family and the United States Air Force Honor Guard from Dover Air Force Base, Major Guillermin was met by Members of VVA436, the Warriors Watch Riders (WWR), A Hero’s Welcome, The American Legion Riders, Units of the Pennsylvania State Police, Chester County Sheriffs Office, The Philadelphia Police Department and hundreds of onlookers. With Police, WWR, American Legion and VVA 436 escorts, the hearse was escorted to the Collins Funeral Home in Oxford. ABC Channel 6 made television Coverage.
On Saturday, 5 Oct 2013, services began at the Collins Funeral Home with visitation from 9:00AM until 10:00 AM followed by a short ceremony.
The funeral procession proceeded to the Glenwood Memorial Cemetery in Broomall, PA. Hundreds of flags around the funeral home in Oxford. Leading the procession was approximately 100 motorcycle units from WWR. As the funeral preceded through West Chester, his hometown, and past West Chester University, his alma mater, dozens op people lined the streets. As the hearse proceeded down Rout1, flag-draped fire trucks, with lights flashing were on nearly every overpass. Citizens and veterans waived flags and saluted.
At the Glenwood Memorial Cemetery, members of the United States Air Force Dover Air Base Honor Guard provided full military honors. This included 21 gun salute, taps and presentation of the flag to the widow and family members by United States Air Force Brigadier General Tony Carrelli.
Participating in the procession and the burial services was Vietnam Veterans of America, Louis F. Guillermin Memorial Chapter436, Chester County, PA, A Hero’s Welcome, Warriors Watch Riders, The American Legion, The Veterans of Foreign Wars, State and Federal Military officials, Chester County Sheriff, State Police, many other local police and fire units, and all Veterans and others interested in showing love for the supreme sacrifice of Louis while serving our country in South East Asia.
Maj. Guillermin was buried next to his parents.
The Funeral of the Major
A Tribute to the Major
Video by Phil Prinzi
Photography and video by Patrick J. Hughes
Video by Phil Prinzi
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