Vietnam Navy pilot, MIA for 51 years, returns home to Union City
UNION CITY, TN — He was lost for 51 years. On Thursday, MIA Vietnam Navy pilot Lt. Richard “Tito” Lannom finally returned home to Tennessee.
His body arrived in Memphis on Thursday by plane. He was then escorted to White-Ranson Funeral Home, where he awaits a special ceremony at Discovery Park of America on Saturday when he’ll finally be laid to rest.
51-years-ago, the plane Lannom was serving aboard as the bombardier/navigator went missing during a combat mission in Vietnam. No one knew what happened to him or his pilot. In late 2017, a Vietnamese Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) team excavated a crash site on the remote island of Tra Ban. Lannom’s body was found, still inside his plane. He was taken to Hawaii, where DNA and evidence found at the crash site were used to officially identify his remains on September 25, 2018.
Larry Edmundson, a veteran himself who grew up in Union City, knew Lannom. The two went to high school and college at the University of Tennessee Martin together. Although they weren’t close, Edmundson has thought about Lannom since he disappeared on March 1, 1968.
“I think about the days and the nights and the years that his body sat in that crashed canopy,” Edmundson said. “All the things that have happened, all the things that he missed — that, who knows, a swerve right, a swerve left and it wouldn’t have happened. But it did. And I’m very happy that he’s coming home.”
On Saturday, Lannom will finally be laid to rest. Visitation will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Discovery Park of America. Funeral services are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., with a graveside ceremony to follow at East View Ceremony. Lannom will be buried with full military honors and a military flyover that will include two EA-18G Growler aircraft: one from VAQ-129 and one from VAQ-130 stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington — where Lannom flew the A6-A Intruder as bombardier and navigator.
Lannom’s widow, Charlotte Shaw, will be there, along with his nephews John Lannom and Ted Lannom.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has declared Saturday, March 2, as a day of mourning across Tennessee. State flags will fly at half-staff on Saturday. WPSD will cover the event on air and online throughout the next several days.
Local 6 does not know if the pilot who was with Lannom was ever found. We are working to try and find out.
To read more about the visitation and funeral for Lannom, click here.
To see Lannom’s profile on the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial website, click here.
To see Lannom’s obituary, click here.