POW/MIA Bulletin Update 02 September 2009

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are now 1,731 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 852. During the League’s 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting, a League member announced that she had just received confirmation from JPAC that remains recovered earlier had been identified as those of her brother, MSGT Donald C. Grella, USA, of Nebraska, listed KIA/BNR on December 28, 1965 in South Vietnam. Also now accounted for from that same incident are WO2 Jesse D. Phelps of Idaho and CPL Thomas Rice, Jr. of South Carolina, both also US Army and initially listed as KIA/BNR. Three Air Force personnel whose names were released as accounted for are Capt Robert J. Edgar of Florida, listed MIA in Laos on 2/5/68, remains repatriated 5/27/97 and identified 4/28/09; Maj Curtis D. Miller of Texas, listed MIA in Laos on 3/29/72, remains repatriated 8/2/06 and identified 2/12/08; and LtCol Russell A. Poor of Indiana, listed MIA in North Vietnam on 2/4/67, remains repatriated 6/14/07 and identified 5/26/08. To each of these families, the League offers understanding and the hope that these concrete answers bring long-awaited peace of mind. Of the 1,731 men still missing, 90% were lost in Vietnam or areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control.

PRESIDENT ADDRESSES GULF WAR PILOT’S ACCOUNTING: The remains of Captain Michael Scott Speicher, USN, presumed KIA on January 17, 1991, the first day of Operation Desert Storm, and later listed as captured, were recently recovered in Anbar Province, Iraq, near the incident site. His remains were identified by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) at Dover AFB, Delaware. The Defense Department’s August 2nd announcement came the day after Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead notified Captain Speicher’s family. The League is delighted for this family to have the long-awaited peace of mind that comes with concrete answers and appreciates President Obama’s reaction to this news. After thanking the Marines who recovered Captain Speicher’s remains, the President stated, “As with all our service men and women considered Missing in Action, we remain steadfast in our determination to bring our American heroes home.”

DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE (DASD) FOR POW/MIA AFFAIRS NAMED: On August 28th, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Integration Pete Verga notified the League office that Mr. Robert J. “Bob” Newberry had been named to replace DASD Ambassador Charlie Ray who resigned July 31st. The League looks forward to working with Mr. Newberry, fully appreciating his wealth of experience in government service. His 26-year US Air Force career included flying F4 and A10 fighters with three tours in Southeast Asia, an exchange tour with the US Marine Corps and the US Army Command and General Staff College. After retiring from the Air Force, he worked briefly in the private sector before retuning to the Defense Department as a civilian employee in 1994. With a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Texas A & M, and a Master of Science degree in Political Science from New Mexico State University, he accepted temporary assignment as Acting DASD for POW/MIA Affairs following the death of former DASD Jerry Jennings. This appointment, though technically political, appears to have been based more on ability, experience and willingness to serve than on political considerations, for which the League is grateful.

NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY – SEPTEMBER 18, 2009: The national ceremony will be held on the designated date at the terraced River Entrance of the Pentagon at 11:00 a.m. It appears that the focus will again be on returned POWs as former U.S. Senator RADM Jeremiah Denton, USN (Ret), will be the featured speaker. Heroic as are ADM Denton and our other returned POWs, the League had hoped that this first year of the Obama Administration might see a return to the primary reason this date was established: to renew our nation’s effort to account for America’s POW/MIAs, our unreturned veterans from the Vietnam War and earlier wars and conflicts. Thanks to the misplaced notions of former DASD Ambassador Ray, this year’s special poster is again more suitable for Memorial Day than for National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Nevertheless, the DPMO-published posters to highlight this year’s observance are available in small and large sizes for order online or by phone at (703) 699-1131. Past years’ posters are also available. To order posters by email, log on to the DPMO website: www.dtic.mil/dpmo

40TH ANNIVERSARY ANNUAL MEETING: On July 23-25th, the League commemorated 40 years of working to achieve POW/MIA accounting objectives. Attended by over 500 League members, concerned citizens and government officials, this year’s meeting was successful and positive. Highlights began with the Keynote remarks of Admiral Tim Keating, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). His unscripted reinforcement of the League’s commitment to upholding accounting principles and advocating for our missing was encouraging and uplifting to all. Also during the Opening Session, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Integration Pete Verga spelled out his thoughts as both a responsible senior official in the Obama Administration and as a Vietnam veteran who lost friends and colleagues. League Senior Policy Advisor Richard Childress delighted all with anecdotal stories from sessions with senior Vietnamese officials over the years and clearly defined suggestions for policy and approach that warrant consideration by the Obama Administration. Following the Executive Director’s assessment, Deputy DIA Director Bill Huntington reinforced his agency’s commitment to retaining a key role through their Stony Beach POW/MIA specialists. There were many other highlights, including a first-ever panel of senior intelligence analysts and collectors, moderated by League Advisor for Intelligence and Archival Research George “Jay” Veith. The briefings by JPAC and other operational organizations were far more helpful than some in earlier years and appreciated by all. A more complete report will be distributed by the end of September in the League Newsletter.

2009-2011 BOARD OF DIRECTORS: As called for in the League Bylaws, an election for the 2009-2011 Board of Directors was held; the results (received and counted by a CPA firm) were announced at the League’s 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting. Those elected (and their subsequent election by the Board to officer positions) are Mark Stephensen, Chairman of the Board, Jo Anne Shirley, Vice Chairman, Sue Scott, Secretary, Pam Cain, Treasurer, Karoni Forrester, David Gray and Ann Mills-Griffiths, who retained her position as Executive Director.

STATUS OF THE LEAGUE: At the first meeting of the newly elected Board of Directors, Chairman Mark Stephensen announced formation of three Committees: Communication, Fundraising & Special Projects, and Operations. Each Committee will be chaired by a League member (associate or family), and at least one board member will serve on each Committee. All League members, family and associate, are urged to volunteer to serve on one of these three key committees and to use their talents to help sustain League efforts. Some members have been doing so for many years, but the number is too few, and the few cannot continue to bear the burden for all. Several members have volunteered in various capacities and others were donating consistently long before the notices were distributed asking for pledges to contribute for this purpose. As a nonprofit, 501{c}3 humanitarian organization, donations are deductible to the extent allowed by law. Those interested in serving on the Communications Special Committee should contact Chairman Karoni Forrester at [email protected]. Tom Engkilterra, Chairman of the Fundraising & Special Projects Chairman, can be reached by emailing [email protected]. Finally, the Operations Committee Chairman, Michael McPherson, can be emailed at [email protected]. For questions concerning any of the Special Committees, their functions, priorities and specific needs, contact Executive Director Ann Mills-Griffiths, at [email protected], or call the League office, 703-465-7432.

VIETNAM’S PROPOSAL FOR EXPANDING JOINT OPERATIONS – FOLLOW-UP: 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. On April 2nd, the League Executive Director testified before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel advocating increases in the number of 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 has happened before. This proposal warrants serious US consideration. Ambassador Charles Ray, then DASD for POW/MIA Affairs, responded positively to a League follow-up letter, indicating interest in this proposal and willingness to work with JPAC to determine the levels of personnel and funding necessary to respond most effectively. Hopefully, DASD Newberry will move quickly to get the response underway. (Anyone wishing a copy of the testimony may contact the League office.)

JPAC ACTIVITIES & OPERATIONS: JPAC Commander RADM Donna Crisp, USN, recently hosted a Lao delegation for POW/MIA consultations at JPAC headquarters, Hickam AFB, Hawaii. Some members of the Lao delegation also met with PACOM officials on broader issues in keeping with the expanding bilateral military ties. Earlier in August, the JPAC commander led a team to meet with Cambodia’s very high level POW/MIA Committee in Siem Reap, Cambodia, near the historic location of Angkor Wat. The talks reinforced the already well-established view that, by any measure, the Kingdom of Cambodia provides the best all-round cooperation and sets the standard for other countries to follow.

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