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Daughter gets OK to stay at Vietnam burial site

Patricia O'Grady Parcels looks up at her father's

Patricia O'Grady Parcels looks up at her father's name on a panel of the Vietnam War Memorial. Particia O'Grady's father, Major John Francis O'Grady parachuted from his stricken plane into the jungle fastness of Quang Binh provice in 1967 and was never found. (July 15, 1993) Credit: Newsday/Newsday File

After running into trouble in the search for the grave of her father in Vietnam, Patricia O'Grady, the daughter of a former New Hyde Park Air Force pilot killed in 1967, will be allowed to stay for another 48 hours, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

Air Force Major John O'Grady was shot down during a bombing raid on April 10, 1967, and was later buried in Quang Binh province with his dog tags, according to two former North Vietnamese soldiers who contacted his daughter, Patricia O'Grady of Tampa, Fla.

Sunday, the two former soldiers, Vo Dinh An and Nguyen Huy Thiet, took O'Grady, along with interpreters and a driver, to a trail leading to the site where they said they buried her father after his death from internal injuries. A U.S. military team is at the site and is excavating in a search for John O'Grady's remains.

But Tuesday, O'Grady said Vietnam officials threatened to arrest her if she did not leave. In an apparent truce, Vietnamese officials agreed, with some involvement by U.S. Embassy officials, to let O'Grady, 59, hold a prayer service for her father at the site and allow her to remain for 48 hours, U.S. officials said.

"They said if I don't leave, there will be no excavation," said O'Grady of the Vietnamese, in a telephone interview before the purported agreement.

The former soldiers found O'Grady after a search they began in 1993 and took her over the weekend to the presumed grave site. Both men also gave information to U.S. officials in 2008, she said.

Johnie Webb, deputy to the commander of the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command, known as JPAC, said problems could have been avoided if O'Grady had coordinated her visit with the military command, which could have then alerted the Vietnamese.

"We worked it out with our Vietnamese counterparts and she was able to go . . . conduct a ceremony to honor her father," Webb said of O'Grady. "The [U.S.] ambassador talked to the Vietnamese and said they would allow her to stay for 48 hours."

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