POW/MIA Bulletin Update 25 June 2009

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,740 US personnel listed by the Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO) as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. . The number of US personnel accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 843. 90% of the 1,740 still missing were lost in Vietnam or areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control.

USNS HEEZEN COMPLETES WORK OFF VIETNAM’S COAST: At long last, and thankfully, Vietnam’s leaders implemented their government’s prior agreement for the United States Navy Ship (USNS) Bruce C. Heezen, an oceanographic survey ship, to participate in humanitarian POW/MIA accounting efforts. An objective sought by the League since 1994, this bilateral effort should be able to expedite locating aircraft incident sites along Vietnam’s coast that could help account for US personnel believed lost over water during the war. The League appreciates the work of officials in both governments who helped bring about this significant step forward and looks forward to receiving a report on this historic mission during our 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting.

VIETNAM’S PROPOSAL FOR EXPANDING JOINT FIELD OPERATIONS: During the League Delegation’s March 2009 trip to Vietnam, senior Vietnamese officials proposed an increase in the pace and scope of investigations and excavations, based on loss of incident sites to increasing development, and advancing age of witnesses. On April 2nd, the League Executive Director testified before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel advocating additional JPAC and Stony Beach personnel and funding to meet Vietnam’s proposal. She also noted the possible need to “fence” relevant budgets to protect them from use on other issues, as happened before. This proposal warranted serious US consideration, and Ambassador Charles Ray, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Affairs, responded positively to a League follow-up letter. He indicated interest in this proposal and willingness to work with JPAC to determine the levels of personnel and funding required to respond effectively. Ambassador Ray’s response was most welcome. Anyone wishing a copy of the oral and written testimonies can obtain them by contacting the League office.

Comments: The League is not in a position to suggest the number of additional personnel required, but recognizes the need for 4-5 more field teams to prevent an adverse impact on recovery of US losses from earlier wars. JPAC funding is not adequate in the current FY09 budget, nor does it include funding for operations in North Korea, if it happens to open up as hoped. An increase of at least $20+ million would likely be needed, with a plus-up of forensic anthropologists and other scientific staff, JPAC headquarters directorates, JPAC Detachment II in Hanoi, more linguists and trained Stony Beach specialists would also be needed to expedite in-country research and investigations. It is also possible that more personnel would be needed in the Service Casualty Offices responsible for notifications and communications with family members.

JPAC OPERATIONS: The 109th Joint Field Activity (JFA) recently concluded in Laos. One Recovery Team (RT) and one Investigation Team (IT) conducted operations in Khammouan Province and two RTs excavated sites in Attapeu Province. The 95th JFA has been ongoing recently on Vietnam. Two investigation and four recovery teams conducted operations in several provinces, and one of the Recovery Teams was involved in the surveys conducted by the USNS Heezen noted above. The USNS Heezen’s contributions may be slightly less than had been originally planned due to its shortened time on station in Vietnamese waters. The 95th JFA concluded on June 24th with the repatriation of remains that could be those of two US personnel. The remains of one American were turned over by a; Vietnamese citizens, and the other may be from a helicopter undergoing excavation.

STATUS OF THE LEAGUE: The referendum sent to League members – family and associate – to determine the level of interest in and commitment to the League’s continuation was distributed during the last two weeks of March with the League Newsletter. The results were discussed May 1-2nd by the Board of Directors. The financial response has been significant, but inadequate to sustain the League in its current composition; however, the national office will continue to operate at least until March 1, 2010, and longer if donations increase. Recognizing the importance of the League’s role in the issue, many former and current US officials have also contributed generously. The League will continue to pursue every possible avenue to sustain operations. Family members are urged to be imaginative in trying to raise funds and to contribute to the extent possible to sustain League efforts, as some already are, though the number is too few. As called for in the Bylaws, an election will be held to seat a 2009-2011 Board of Directors; ballots will be mailed on June 16th to all family members with dues paid to January 1, 2009.

40TH ANNIVERSARY ANNUAL MEETING JULY 22-25, 2009: This year’s annual meeting will be special, commemorating 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. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michéle Flournoy (top Defense Department policy official) will address the 40th Anniversary Annual Dinner, accompanied by her husband, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs W. Scott Gould.

Our Keynote Speaker at the Opening Session will be Admiral Timothy Keating, USN, Commander, US Pacific Command (PACOM). The Deputy Secretary of Defense authorized COIN Assist travel. Family members should have received notices from their Service Casualty Office. Registering with the Services for official briefings ONLY does NOT suffice for registration to attend the full League Annual Meeting or the dinner.

Complete the League’s Registration Form (available from the League) and send a check for the fee, plus dinner, to the League office. Reservations at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel are no longer available at the special League rate of $149.00 per night, plus tax; the deadline has passed.

Plan to arrive early if you wish to call on Members of Congress or foreign embassy officials. Opening Session begins on Thursday, July 23rd, at 9:00 a.m. Registration to attend the 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting, at which USG briefings are given, will take place on Wednesday, July 22nd, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., continuing from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. in the Admiralty Ballroom Foyer. Visits to Congress are strongly encouraged and are again part of an organized effort, chaired by Tami Taber Keays.

An organization session for Congressional visits will be held on Wednesday morning, July 22nd, 8:00 – 9:30 a.m. in the Commodore Barry Room, off the Admiralty Ballroom Foyer, Plaza Level, Metro or taxi must be used for transportation to Capitol Hill.

And please don’t forget the Silent Auction; bring something (small) that you believe others will want to purchase and have room to take home.

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