A former Laughlin Air Force Base instructor pilot who died in the 1960s and remained missing for decades was recently found, identified and flown to Texas for proper burial.
Col. Roy Abner Knight, Jr. was an instructor pilot with the 3645th Pilot Training Wing at Laughlin leading up to the Vietnam War. Knight served as an instructor pilot at Laughlin from April 1963 to Aug. 1966.
Knight’s plane was shot down in 1967 during the Vietnam War. He was returned Thursday to Texas by a commercial jet flown by his son.
Knight arrived in Dallas Love Field. Southwest Airlines Capt. Bryan Knight flew the plane transporting the flag-draped casket.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said Knight, whose remains were accounted for in June, would be buried Aug. 10 in Weatherford, 50 miles west of Dallas.
On May 19, 1967, Knight was with the 602nd Tactical Fighter Squadron and leading a strike mission in Laos when his plane was shot down. Knight was 36 years old at the time, records show.
Knight’s obituary states his plane was in a mission on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, in Laos.
He was initially listed as missing in action until being declared killed in action in 1974. During that time, he was promoted to Colonel. Fifty-two years later, Knight’s remains were recovered and identified by personnel assigned to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
After the Air Force declared him dead his family was forced to move on without closure. That is, until this summer.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said Knight’s remains were discovered earlier this year by a team investigating crash sites in northern Laos. DPAA scientists used dental remains to positively identify the missing pilot.
According to Knight’s obituary, he served as a typing clerk in the Philippines, Japan and Korea before becoming a fighter pilot. He and his wife, Patricia, had three children while he served in the military.
Knight’s youngest son, Bryan, was only 5 years old when he saw his father for the last time. The two said their goodbyes at Love Field as he left for war 52 years ago.
A large crowd gathered Thursday at the airport, as Bryan flew the plane carrying his father’s casket draped with an American flag, the Associated Press reported.
Knight is one of 22 instructor pilots who served at Laughlin and were killed in action during the war.
Knight joins Rudolf Anderson, Jr., Jacksel M. Broughton, and Jesse W. Campbell as recipients of the nation’s second highest award for valor, the Air Force Cross. They all served at Laughlin AFB.
Knight was born in Garner, Texas on Feb. 1, 1931, the sixth of seven sons and one daughter of Roy Abner Knight, Sr., and Martha Holder Knight, his obituary states.
He graduated from Millsap High School in 1947 and enlisted in the United States Air Force days after his 17th birthday, following his five older brothers who all served in WWII. He served as a clerk typist in the Philippines, Japan and Korea before attending Officer Candidate School in 1953.
After being commissioned a 2nd Lt., he married Patricia Henderson of Shawnee, Okla. whom he first met in the Philippines, where her father served. He then completed the Personnel Officer Course followed by three years at Itazuke AB in Japan and Taegu AB in South Korea during which time their son Roy, III was born.
In 1957, he was accepted for pilot training at Laredo, where their daughter, Gayann, was born. He subsequently served in Germany and France as a fighter pilot, flying the F-86D. While stationed at Toul-Rosieres AB in France, their son, Bryan, was born.
In 1963, Knight and his family returned to Texas where he became an instructor pilot at Laughlin. In January 1966, he completed his bachelor’s degree through Operation Bootstrap at the University of Omaha.
That year he received orders for Southeast Asia and reported to the 602nd Fighter Squadron at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in January 1967. He flew combat missions almost daily until being shot down.
He was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and six Air Medals for his actions during this time.
Knight’s name is inscribed onto a memorial plaque honoring him and other Laughlin Air Force Base service members who served during the Vietnam War and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“They never questioned the Call of Duty, and against all laws of average, chance and probability, they paid far too dear a price,” the plaque reads. The memorial plaque is located on Laughlin in the gazebo by the west gate entrance.