AMERICANS RECOVERED: 1,727 Americans are still listed by Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO) as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. The Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO) recently posted the name of Chief Master Sergeant Calvin C. Glover, USAF, of Ohio, as accounted for. He was listed MIA on May 22, 1968 in South Vietnam. His remains were part of a larger recovery on May 29, 2002, and identified March 13, 2009. The number of Americans accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 856, though another 63 US personnel were recovered post-incident and identified before the end of the war, bringing the total to 919. In recent months, DPMO has released the names of ten Vietnam War Veterans as now accounted for. To the family and friends, the League offers understanding and the hope that these concrete answers bring long-awaited peace of mind. Of the 1,727 unreturned veterans still missing and unaccounted for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control.
ADM ROBERT WILLARD, USN, ASSUMES COMMAND OF PACOM: On October 19th, at headquarters U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), Camp Smith, Hawaii, Admiral Willard relieved Admiral Timothy Keating, USN, as PACOM Commander in an impressive ceremony. The support of the PACOM Commander for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) is fundamentally important to successful efforts on the POW/MIA effort, and ADM Keating has been a strong, reliable voice, providing reinforcement throughout his tenure. That support was recognized by Secretary of Defense Bob Gates during the Change of Command ceremony. The importance of the POW/MIA accounting issue was among the litany of key PACOM accomplishments under the leadership of ADM Keating. This reference by the Secretary of Defense marked the highest level Obama Administration affirmation to date and was most welcome. League Executive Director Ann Mills-Griffiths attended the Change of Command at ADM Keating’s invitation and maximized the four-day visit to represent the POW/MIA families’ interests. Such opportunities are not at all routine, and the ability to spend time at PACOM and JPAC getting updated on the ever-changing and improving accounting process was well-utilized.
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.) RADM Crisp requested clarification. Details were provided by Chairman of the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) Ambassador Nguyen Van Dao during September 24th talks held in Danang, Vietnam.
That detailed proposal is now being given serious consideration by the Department of Defense (DoD), and relevant Congressional Committees have officially requested DoD projections on budget and personnel increases necessary to meet Vietnam’s proposed expansion.
Newly named Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Affairs Robert Newberry recently completed a brief mission to Vietnam where he conveyed to officials in Hanoi the seriousness of the US about following up their proposal. There is need for close coordination and cooperation between DPMO and JPAC to determine the appropriate levels required to expand Southeast Asia operations without reducing efforts to obtain answers on US personnel missing from the Korean War, Cold War and WWII.
DPMO TO HOST INTERAGENCY POW/MIA PLANNING SESSION: Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs will host discussions among officials representing the Department of Defense, each of the Military Services, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), the Armed Forces DNA Institute (AFDIL), the Life Science Equipment Laboratory (LSEL) and DPMO staff. Their agenda will focus on Vietnam’s proposed expansion, as well as broader-based suggestions aimed at increasing results that account for US personnel missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, Korean and Cold Wars and WWII, as required in the Defense Authorization Bill. The intention is to increase in all areas, and that will require additional funding and personnel. There are many options being considered and the League is eager to hear the preliminary results of these important discussions.
JPAC ACTIVITIES & OPERATIONS: JPAC teams recently concluded Joint Field Activities (JFAs) in Laos and will complete their current operation in Vietnam today. They are continuing operations in India that have been hampered by weather, but plan to complete operations there before Christmas. These field operations follow recent technical talks held by JPAC Commander RADM Crisp with all three Indochina countries. Talks were held in Danang, Vietnam; the Lao were hosted at JPAC headquarters in Hawaii, and Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee met with US officials in Siem Reap, Cambodia. RADM Donna Crisp is now in Southeast Asia and scheduled to again hold talks with Lao officials this week.
Operations around the world continue to improve in quality; however, there is urgent need for increased funding and personnel to meet requirements mandated by the Defense Authorization Act for FY2010. Unfortunately, Congress is mandating that JPAC’s Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) identify at least 200 remains per year by 2015, a significant increase that could adversely impact the scientific process,and force increased excavations of large-scale WWII slow moving aircraft with large crews, and easier to identify in order to reach that numerical mandate. Reaching that goal could also mean reducing investigations, surveys and excavations that are Vietnam War-related, the original reason for formation of JPAC and its predecessor organizations.
For this reason and more, it is critical that funding and personnel be increased to meet the Congressional quota now passed, without sacrificing the accounting principles the League has fought for decades to establish.