AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,742 US personnel listed by the Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO) as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. There have been no recent announcements of Vietnam War personnel identified since December 15th. The number of US personnel accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 841. 90% of the 1,742 still missing from the Vietnam War were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control.
LEAGUE DELEGATION GOING TO LAOS, CAMBODIA & VIETNAM: Executive Director Ann Mills Griffiths will again lead a small team to Southeast Asia for discussions with senior officials in each named country. Departing on March 15th, this trip will be the 29th or 30th undertaken by the executive director since her first in 1982, including both League and US Government delegations. By vote of the Board of Directors, Senior Policy Advisor Richard Childress and Vice Chairman of the Board Mark Stephensen will complete the three-member delegation. Family members are asked to consider sending brief, thoughtfully-worded letters to relevant officials in the country where their loved one was lost, either thanking them for answers received (as is the case for Mark Stephensen and his family), or appealing for answers and greater cooperation, as is pertinent for over 1,700 families and countless friends. Please send all letters to the League office, in an envelope containing your letter to a Vietnamese, Lao or Cambodian official in a smaller, unsealed envelope. All appropriate letters will be taken to the respective country of loss. The Executive Director has been invited to testify at a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel and Readiness on April 2nd, the day after returning from Southeast Asia.
DEFENSE ATTACHE OFFICE OPENED IN LAOS: A Defense Attaché Office (DAO) was officially opened on December 5th at the US Embassy in Vientiane, Laos. The long-sought agreement to exchange military attaches between the US and Laos was first announced in 2007. The new US Defense Attaché, Army LTC James McAden, met with senior officials at the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense as part of the DAO opening. US Ambassador to Laos Ravic R. Huso hosted a reception that evening for Lao and US officials and counterpart attaches in the embassies of other countries with representation in Vientiane. LTC McAden is a Southeast Asia Foreign Area Officer (FAO) who most recently served as Deputy to the Foreign Policy Advisor at US Pacific Command (PACOM) in Hawaii and previously at the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. He holds a Masters in Asian Studies from Johns Hopkins University, an Advance Diploma in Strategic and Defense Studies from the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and is a graduate of the US Army’s Command and General Staff College and the Malaysian Armed Forces Staff College.
DEFENSE ATTACHE ACCEPTED BY VIETNAM: After months of awaiting approval from the Vietnamese Government, COL Patrick Reardon, USA, has assumed his position as Defense Attaché (DATT) in Hanoi. The first exchange of attaches between the US and Vietnam occurred fairly early in the bilateral relationship formally established in 1995. The resulting improvements in the military-to-military relationship have been useful and are beneficial to both countries, including the pursuit of answers on America’s POW/MIAs. Vietnam has repeatedly announced agreement that a USN ship could be used in the accounting process, most recently affirmed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during his visit to Washington in June, 2008. The mission was planned for March, 2009; however, Hanoi recently postponed again. The League had hoped that the announcement by the Prime Minister would overcome any remaining obstacles, and it now looks as though the current target timeframe is June/July of this year.
JPAC OPERATIONS: No operations took place during the last half of December to enable all personnel to spend holidays with family and friends; however, activities geared up quickly. The 107th Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos began January 25th and ended February 18th, a shorter period of time in the field to conduct operations than is routinely the case due to the 60th Anniversary Commemoration of the Lao Military. During the JFA, two investigation teams, including a DIA Stony Beach specialist and trilateral investigations, and one recovery team conducted operations. POW/MIA consultations between US and Laos officials will take place February 24-25th in Vientiane to review past operations and discuss future steps. The US has reported increased Lao Government flexibility and seriousness in consistently working to improve the accounting process. The 42nd JFA is continuing in Cambodia, focused on recovery of a reported burial site, an operation scheduled for completion on February 24th. An investigation team recently completed operations in South Korea and the Republic of Suriname, in South America, plus a recovery team is currently working on a WWII in India. A JPAC delegation also recently completed talks in the PRC aimed at working out acceptable terms to resume conducting joint field operations.
STATUS OF THE LEAGUE: Since the financial appeal was distributed in mid-October, funds received have enabled the League to continue for now; however, the outcome is by no means clear. The Board of Directors met February 6-7th to discuss where things stand and decided to send out a referendum to all League members – family and associate – to determine the level of interest in and commitment to the League’s continuation as an organization. That mailing will be distributed before the end of February, and result tabulated before the next meeting of the Board of Directors, now scheduled for May 1-2nd. At that time, the board will decide whether an election will be held to seat a Board of Directors for 2009 – 2011. Every possibility is being exhausted to ensure the League’s continuation, despite the economic recession at home and abroad, and many former and current US officials have contributed, recognizing the importance of the League’s role to ensure priority efforts continue. Members and supporters are urged to be imaginative in trying to raise funds and to contribute to the extent possible to sustain League efforts, without which POW/MIA accounting will be solely in the hands of elected and appointed politicians and career officials.
40TH ANNIVERSARY ANNUAL MEETING JULY 22-25, 2009: This year’s annual meeting promises to be special, including commemoration of over 35 years since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and 40 years since the League was formed, then incorporated on May 28, 1970. Governmental transitions are taking place, and there will be much to discuss and decide in terms of the League’s and the issue’s future in this first year of the Obama Administration. Plan to attend, arriving early if you wish to call on Members of Congress and visit meaningful sites in our nation’s capital before Opening Session begins on Thursday, July 23rd, at 9:00 a.m. ADM Tim Keating, USN, Commander, US Pacific Command, has agreed to Keynote. The Secretary of Defense is again expected to authorize COIN Assist travel. Reservations can now be made at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel. Call 1-800-HILTONS (800-445-8667), noting affiliation with the League’s 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting, or go to www.hilton.com, and use Group Code “POW” to get the special rate of $149 per room night, single/double. Deadline to secure the special rate is June 19th.
COMBINED FEDERAL CAMPAIGN (CFC): The League (a 501 [c] 3 nonprofit) again met the stringent criteria for eligibility in the 2008 campaign, and has already applied for the 2009 campaign that doesn’t begin until next October. Our official number is the same, CFC #10218, assigned by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Washington, DC. The League is the ONLY nonprofit organization representing American POW/MIAs, KIA/BNRs and their families eligible for donations through CFC & United Way. Despite the reality of many competing charities and much need, especially in a time of war, the League is proud of our eligibility, due to tough requirements that must be met and is in urgent need of tax-deductible donations, FEIN #23-7071242.