After 48 long years, a good Captain and American who served his country well are finally coming home. Nearly five decades after his plane was shot down over Laos during the tumultuous Vietnam War, a fitting closure has been won following all the uncertainties and agony of the disappearance of Air Force Capt. Robert Edwin Holton of Butte.
Holton’s remains were excavated from the crash site earlier this year and verified recently. They are now in a sealed casket in Honolulu and as Holton’s brother Bill has confirmed, the remains will soon be flown home to Butte.
Bill Holton emotionally said: “After 48 years, Capt. Holton is finally coming home to Butte.” Bill still lives in Butte.
Holton was the lone serviceman from Butte that has gone missing in action from Vietnam. People across the country used to wear MIA bracelets in his honor, some as far back as 1969- the same year his plane went down.
Holton’s casket would be flown from Honolulu to Atlanta to Minneapolis and arrive in Bozeman on Friday, July 21. It will be driven from there to Butte later that same day. Services will also be held on July 22, a Saturday at 10 a.m. It will be held at Wayrynen-Richards Funeral Home, the burial will follow at Sunset Memorial Park 13 miles west of Butte.
Bill professed his appreciation for the Air Force: “There will be a captain from the Air Force accompanying his casket all the way here. The Air Force has been wonderful to us all these years. They never stopped looking.”
The Air Force called Bill in January to update him that a tooth has been identified as belonging to Air Force Maj. William Campbell and discovered in Laos. Campbell and Holton were in a F4 Phantom, a fighter-bomber and interceptor, when they were shot down on January 29, 1969 near the Ho Chi Minh Trail near the border of Laos and Vietnam.
After excavation and further verification, the Air Force confirmed in June and confirmed that it was definitely Holton’s remains.
Bolton and Campbell were then returning from North Vietnam aside another fighter plane when they veered off near the Mu Gia Pass, one of the several passageways through mountainous terrain leading to the “Ho Chi Minh Trail” to bomb a truck convoy. Bolton and Campbell’s plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and went down.
The two were initially classified as Missing in Action since it was also probable that they survived and were captured by the enemies. However, in 1973, when U.S. soldiers started returning home, and they were not included among the returnees, their status changed from MIA to Killed in Action.