Background: In April 1986, Pres. Reagan ordered an attack on Muammar Qadafi’s compound in response to his involvement in the Berlin nightclub bombing earlier that month. The operation was code-named “El Dorado Canyon.”
One US aircraft, an F-111F, was lost, along with the aircrew: the pilot, USAF Capt. Fernando L. Ribas-Dominici, and the weapons system operator, USAF Capt. Paul Lorence. It is ironic, given that today France is aggressively leading the military action against Libya; that in 1986, France and Spain DENIED to the US overflight of their territory, thus forcing the US aircraft to fly a 1,300 mile detour to reach the target. The F-111 was hit by a Libyan SAM, but after-action reports suggest that crew fatigue, due to the extended flight time and multiple air-to-refuelings that it necessitated, might have delayed their response to detecting, and then avoiding, the SAM. We shall never know.
On Christmas, 1988, Qadafi offered, through the good offices of Pope John-Paul II, to release the body of Capt. Lorence. The body that was returned in early 1989 was identified, by dental records, as that of Capt. Ribas-Dominici. Libya has since always denied holding the body of Capt. Lorence. There has always been strong evidence to suggest that the remains of BOTH pilots were recovered by the Libyans.
For better or worse, and despite what Obama publicly states, we are now invested, and committed to removing Qadafi from power. If one good thing comes out of this, it will be that we will finally have an answer to the question of what happened to Capt. Lorence, and hopefully, his remains can be identified and returned to his family and laid to rest in the soil of the nation he died defending.