POW/MIA Bulletin Update 14 October 2009

AMERICANS RECOVERED: There are now 1,728 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 855, though another 63 US personnel were recovered post-incident and identified before the end of the war, bringing the total to 918. DPMO recently released the names of two personnel now accounted for:

  • CW3 Kenneth L. Stancil, USA, TN, KIA/BNR, SVN, 12/28/65, RE 4/4/09, ID 6-?-09
  • CMSGT Melvin D. Rash, USAF, VA, MIA, SVN, 5/22/68, RR 5/29/02, ID 3/13/09

To each of the families, the League offers understanding and the hope that these concrete answers bring long-awaited peace of mind. Of the 1,728 men still missing, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in 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 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 was held on the designated date at the Pentagon. Hosted by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the focus was again on honoring all POW/MIAs, and returned POW, former U.S. Senator RADM Jeremiah Denton, USN (Ret), was the featured speaker. Deserving of recognition as are Admiral Denton and other returned POWs from all wars, the League was hopeful that this first year of the Obama Administration might see a return to the primary reason this date was established in 1979: to renew our nation’s effort to account for America’s POW/MIAs, our unreturned veterans from the Vietnam War, later adding earlier wars and conflicts. Although Secretary of Defense Gates’ remarks reinforced the need to honor our returned POWs, it was Vice Chairman of the Joiint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright whose words of commitment were meaningful and helpful to the issue. (A copy can be obtained from the League office.) This year’s special poster was again more suitable for Memorial Day than for National POW/MIA Recognition Day, but the DPMO-published posters are available in small and large sizes for order by phone at (703) 699-1131 or by email on the DPMO website: www.dtic.mil/dpmo. Past years’ posters are reportedly also available.

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 October 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, also continuing 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 key 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 are urged to volunteer to serve on one of these key committees and to use your talents to help sustain League efforts. As a nonprofit, 501{c}3 humanitarian organization, donations are deductible to the extent allowed by law. Some members have been donating to sustain operations for years; others recently pledged monthly contributions, and both are deeply appreciated, but the number is too few to bear the burden for all. To serve on the Communications Committee, contact Chairman Karoni Forrester, [email protected]. Tom Engkilterra, Chairman of the Fundraising/Special Projects Committee, can be reached by emailing [email protected]. Operations Committee Chairman Michael McPherson can be emailed at [email protected]. For questions concerning any of these 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, as well as funding necessary to meet Vietnam’s proposal and the possible need to “fence” relevant funding to guard against use on other issues, as has happened before. (Anyone wishing a copy of the testimony may contact the League office.) Vietnam’s proposal is now being given serious consideration by the US and Vietnamese governments. There is need for close coordination between DPMO and JPAC to determine the levels of personnel and funding necessary to respond most effectively, without reducing the effort to account for Americans missing from the Korean War and remains recoveries of Cold War and WWII US personnel.

JPAC ACTIVITIES & OPERATIONS: JPAC Commander RADM Donna Crisp, USN, recently concluded talks in Hanoi with Vietnamese counterparts. She recently hosted a Lao delegation for POW/MIA consultations at JPAC headquarters in Hawaii. In August, the JPAC commander led a team to meet with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee in Siem Reap, Cambodia, reinforcing the 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. Pending PACOM approval of funding within the amounts designed in the Continuing Resolution passed by Congress, joint field operations are scheduled to begin next week in both Vietnam and Laos.

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