Major John F. O'Grady at the Takhli Royal Thai Air...

Major John F. O'Grady at the Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, located in Central Thailand. (March, 1967) Credit: Handout

U.S. officials in Vietnam have suspended their search for the remains of a missing Air Force pilot from New Hyde Park out of concern for the safety of his daughter who traveled to his presumed grave site on her own, a U.S. military spokeswoman said Thursday.

U.S. personnel took steps to protect the site in Quang Binh province so that the excavation for the remains of Maj. John O'Grady could resume later, said Capt. Jamie Dobson, with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii, known as JPAC.

"The decision was made by the commander to defuse the situation out of concern for the safety and well-being of the family member," Dobson said, without elaboration. She noted that so far no remains had been found.

O'Grady's daughter Patricia, 59, traveled last weekend to the presumed grave site without coordinating her trip with U.S. and Vietnamese officials. Her trip was the subject of a Newsday story on Tuesday.

In telephone calls and emails, Patricia O'Grady, who lives in Tampa, Fla., said she has been at odds with Vietnamese officials since her arrival. She said that she had been threatened with arrest and deportation but has been left alone as of late Thursday and is staying with ethnic tribal people in the village of Y Lenh. The hilly area is near the border with Laos.

"This claim is a red herring and not true," scoffed O'Grady in an email about the government's professed concerns about her safety. "Every man, woman, child, dog, chicken, and cow in the village roams the site freely. I am staying in a village house with a three year old. So what is the danger to me exactly?"

O'Grady said she has been concerned that the excavation would miss the spot that two former North Vietnamese soldiers said was where they buried her father, who had died after crashing during a bombing mission, in April 1967.

"We are aware of the issue and the embassy in Hanoi is actively engaged to resolve the situation," said a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, has been working to see whether O'Grady can receive a full briefing on the excavation and remain in Vietnam at least through Memorial Day, a spokesman said.

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