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Ex-Lakewood Resident Died In Vietnam During Sortie


He came from Estonia to Lakewood as a young boy with his parents, sister and brother, and pursued what was then known as the American Dream: Voted best-looking by the Lakewood High School class of 1960, was headed for the University of Miami to major in business administration and had a “cool Ford convertible.” But his goal of becoming a businessman shifted toward dreams more patriotic, and on a summer night in 1966, the day before his 25th birthday, Aado Kommendant’s plane was shot down over the dense jungle of South Vietnam, on his 17th flying mission as a U.S. Air Force pilot. Searchers were unable to find Kommendant, then a lieutenant, and the commanding pilot of the F4C Phantom jet, Capt. Charles W. Walling.  The battery was declared missing in action for the next 12 years; in 1979 they were declared killed in action. But a proper burial for Aado Kommendant is finally on its way. The Department of Defense on Thursday announced that scientists have conclusively linked circumstantial and material evidence at the crash site with the two-man flying team that vanished from the sky on Aug. 8, 1966. On the 46th anniversary of the crash, there will be a group burial honoring Kommendant and Waller, of Phoenix, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. The ceremony should bring a measure of closure to the friends and family of Kommendant, who has been remembered in myriad ways since his death. His name is inscribed on the National Vietnam Memorial wall in Washington, D.C., and on the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Holmdel. His nephew, a well-known softball coach at Raritan High School in Hazlet, was named after him. He joined the Air Force in June 1964, with aspirations of becoming a commercial pilot after his service was up, according to the veterans’ memorial website. On that night in 1966 he was a backseat co-pilot in the Phantom, on a mission to provide air support of friendly forces. A POW/MIA organization, Task Force Omega, said that the Phantom had been flying about 1,500 feet over dense jungle when it dropped a bomb on a target and pulled up into the clouds. A few seconds later an air controller saw an explosion about 1 1/2 miles southeast of the target. “Fighter pilots in Vietnam were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured,” its website says. “It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.”   From the Asbury Park Press - June 15, 2012  


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