POW/MIA Bulletin Update 14 December 2009

AMERICANS RECOVERED: 1,724 Americans are now listed by Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO) as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. DPMO recently posted the names of Staff Sergeant (SSG) Robert Griffith, USA, of GA, and civilians James Ackley and Clarence Driver, both of CA, as no longer missing. SSG Griffith’s remains were recovered November 21, 2007 and identified October 2, 2008; he was listed as MIA in Laos on February 19, 1968. The remains of Mr. Ackley and Mr. Driver were recovered September 2, 1994 and identified September 21, 2003; both were listed as missing in Laos on March 7, 1973. The number of Americans accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 859, though another 63 US personnel were recovered post-incident and identified before the end of the war, bringing the total to 922. To the family and friends of these three men, the League offers understanding and the hope that these concrete answers bring long-awaited peace of mind. Of the 1,724 unreturned veterans still missing and unaccounted for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control.

DPMO HOSTS CONFERENCE ON FUTURE: Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Affairs Robert Newberry hosted a nearly community-wide conference to focus collective attention on the way ahead for the accounting mission. The intended focus was to develop a concept of expansion to meet mandates established by Congress in the Defense Authorization Bill recently signed into law. It is understood that DASD Newberry is working across the board to increase the pace and scope of the accounting effort, in keeping with the proposal made by Vietnam last March and subsequently detailed to the JPAC Commander and Detachment 2 personnel in Hanoi. The end-result of the conference won’t be published for quite some time, but it is hoped that all organizations and agencies involved in the issue will pull together as a strengthened Defense Department team, rather than continuing the fragmented divisiveness that has existed far too long.

VIETNAM’S DEFENSE MINISTER VISITING THE U.S. Vietnam’s Minister of National Defense, General Phung Quang Thanh, is now in Washington, DC, for meetings with the Secretary of Defense and other senior US officials. En route to Washington, he visited U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) and met with ADM Robert Willard, PACOM Commander. The League provided input to PACOM and DoD for consideration.

JPAC ACTIVITIES & OPERATIONS: JPAC teams recently concluded Joint Field Activities (JFAs) in Laos and Vietnam, and operations in India that have been hampered by weather will be completed before Christmas. JPAC Detachment Commanders from Bangkok, Vientiane and Hanoi have spent this week in Hawaii for their regularly scheduled Commanders’ Conference.

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.

That is a significant increase in the number of IDs and establishing such a quota could adversely impact the scientific process. Without increases in budget and personnel, it could mean diverting attention and priority to easier to identify, large crew WWII sites 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 these reasons 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.

41ST ANNUAL MEETING SCHEDULED: To enable all to start planning to attend, the 41st Annual Meeting will be held July 22-25, 2010, at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel, Arlington, VA. Start planning now to attend.

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