Operation El Dorado Canyon
We first wrote about Capt. Paul Lorence in the March 23, 2002 edition of Bits N Pieces (see below.)
On April 14, 1986, President Ronald Reagan gave the order to launch Operation El Dorado Canyon, in retaliation for a terrorist attack in Germany that killed American servicemen. One of the F111's participating in the raid, on Libya was manned by Capt Fernando I. Ribas-Dominicci and Weapons System Officer Capt. Paul Lorence. It is believe they were shot down somewhere over the Mediterranean
On Wednesday May 7 1986, the Associated Press reported that Libyan television showed a body wearing a military uniform. The Libyans stated the body was of an American pilot shot down during the bombing raid. Also displayed were a wedding ring, bullets, $59.00 in American funds and 10 British pounds. Libyan television reported the remains of the pilot has washed up on shore 25 miles west of Tripoli. The report did not say when the body was found.
On Saturday May 3rd 1986, Libyan televison displayed a flight helmet bearing the name Lorence, saying it too had washed up on shore. After that.... nothing as far as we can tell.
Then in January 1989, Reuters reported that Libyan Press Agency JANA had announced they were about to return the body of an American pilot, shot down during the April 1986 raid, to a Vatican representative. A previous JANA report indicated the body was that of Capt. Paul Lorence.
On January 13th the body was flown to Rome and turned over to Vatican representatives. Subsequently, the remains were identified as Capt Fernando I. Ribas-Dominicci. Did the Libyan's mistakenly identifiy the remains as Capt. Lorence base on the name on the flight helmet? Or, do the Libyan's know more about Capt. Lorence then they are willing to share?
We don't know and it seems that no one on the U.S. side was asking. Then, after our March 2002 newsletter and we don't know if there is any connection, Capt Lorence was mentioned in the June DPMO briefing during our annual Forum. References to contact with Libya on the Lorence case appeared on the DPMO web site.
In 2004, at the request of the Special Assistant to Jerry D. Jennings, then Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Affairs, we were asked to submit a list of question to be addressed at our 2004 Forum. Among the eight questions was; "As relations with Libya thaw, what initiatives has DPMO taken or plans to take to resolve the fate of Capt. Paul Lorence, lost during operation El Dorado Canyon?"
Unfortunately, the thaw in relations with Libya was short, with no progress on the case of Capt. Lorence.
From our Newsletter March 23, 2002
Can We Bring Capt. Paul Lorence Home? - You will not find the name of Paul Lorence on the list of Prisoners or Missing from World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam or the Gulf. Yet, Air Force Capt. Paul Lorence is a missing American serviceman.
Normally, we do in depth research before we bring the story of a missing serviceman to our readers. That is not the case here. While the limited information provided is factual, it is sketchy. More information is needed and we will get it but for now, we felt that everyone should know of Capt. Paul Lorence.
On April 14, 1986, President Ronald Reagan gave the order to launch Operation El Dorado Canyon. Among those participating on the bombing raid over Libya was Capt. Paul Lorence. He and his pilot were shot down during that mission.
After doing some quick internet research, we learned Libya returned the remains of the aircraft pilot, only after intervention by the Pope. So far, we have been unable to find out how long the Libyan's held the pilots remains or when they were returned. We also do not know at this point what information, if any, the Libyans provided on Capt. Lorence, when the pilots remains were returned.
The fact that the Libyans recovered the remains of the pilot might provide indications that they know what may have happened to the backseater, Capt. Lorence.
Can We Bring Capt. Paul Lorence Home? Is anyone asking?