FORT WORTH, Texas -- The wife of a Marine officer shot down 20 years ago in North Vietnam will return what she was told were the bones of her husband, saying she has proof they could not be his remains.
Kathryn Fanning told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram she believes her husband, Marine Maj. Hugh Michael Fanning, is still alive and that examinations by two board-certified anthropologists have convinced her the bones in her possession are those of another man.
The remains identified as Fanning's were returned to the United States in 1984. Kathryn Fanning, 44, had the bones buried in an unopened casket.
Kathryn Fanning said she plans to give the bones back to the government this week at the laboratory of anthropologist Michael Charney at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.
'I grieved over bones that were not my husband's and buried them with great tenderness,' said Fanning, a former Fort Worth resident who now lives in Oklahoma City.
Fanning's husband was 26 when he was sent to Vietnam. He was shot down over North Vietnam on Oct. 31, 1967, in an A-6 Intruder. He was listed as missing in action, and the government determined him dead in August 1984.
'It took a load off my mind,' Fanning said. 'At last, I could accept the death of my husband and the father of my three children.
Fanning, however, later questioned the military's identification of the bones. She had the remains exhumed in 1985 and taken to the Oklahoma state medical examiner's laboratory in Oklahoma City.
Two board-certified anthropologists at Colorado State University said the size of the bones and other factors showed the bones could not be those of Hugh Fanning.
'The military lied to me,' Kathryn Fanning said. 'I went through bloody hell with grief when our government, through the U.S. Marine Corps, told me they had identified bones of my husband.'
After the remains were re-examined, a board of Department of Defense officers met to reconsider the case May 19, 1987.
Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Keith P. Schneider told the Star-Telegram the board found insufficient evidence to support the original identification as Fanning and asked for further study.
Fanning said she believes her husband and other Vietnam veterans are still alive in Vietnam.
'I discovered from military files in Washington five different reports that my husband had been sighted alive in 1967, after his airplane crashed, she said.
'One report showed that he had been identified in 1971 by a North Vietnamese deserter as a possible POW.'
Kathryn Fanning joined a class-action lawsuit in 1985seeking an accounting by the federal government of people still missing from Vietnam.