Remains Of Missing Vietnam Fighter Pilot And UT ROTC Grad Found After 41 Years

Robert Leon Tucci, 1966 graduate of UT

With reporting by John M. Economidy

On Nov. 12, 1969, UT Air Force ROTC grad Robert Leon “Bob” Tucci climbed into the cockpit of his F4 fighter jet for a dangerous night mission.

Captain Tucci and his weapons operator, Major James Dennany, were under orders to protect an AC-130 Spectre gunship and attack enemy trucks near Ban Phan Hop, Khammouan Province, in southern Laos, an area known as “Steel Tiger.”

As they were nearing the attack point, Tucci sent his F4 into an roll, just as the enemy opened fire with 37-mm anti-aircraft rounds. The jet was hit and crashed; neither Tucci nor Dennany could be found.

Since that night in 1969, the men have been considered missing in action. Investigators found Tucci’s pistol on a visit to the suspected crash site in 1999 but found no sign of the bodies. Family members suspected the two may have been captured and held out hope they would one day be returned.

That is, until last Friday, when — after 41 years — Tucci and Dennany’s remains were finally identified and brought home. The pilot and co-pilot were interred together and buried with military honors in a ceremony at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.

Tucci, born in Michigan, had moved to Texas with his father, a military pilot. He graduated from Del Valle High School and earned his BBA from UT in 1966. Upon graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant through UT’s Air Force ROTC program.

While missing in action, Tucci was promoted to major. He was awarded a Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense Service Ribbon, Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze battle star, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Watch video from KDAF-TV in Dallas of the military flyover.




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