AMERICANS IDENTIFIED: There are 1,711 Americans listed by DOD as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, though many more have been identified and are awaiting family notification by the Service Casualty Offices. On August 12th, the Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO) updated its website to reflect the accounting for Captain Clyde W. Campbell, USAF, Texas, lost March 1, 1969 over Laos, remains recovered in 2009 and identified May 18, 2010. Also recently, DPMO announced the identification of 1LT Paul G. Magers, USA, Nebraska, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Donald L. Wann, USA, Oklahoma, both listed as KIA/BNR in South Vietnam June 1, 1971. Their remains were recovered July 29, 2009 and identified March 22, 2010. The number of Americans returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 872, though another 63 US personnel, recovered post-incident and identified before the end of the war, bring the total to 935. Of the 1,711 unreturned veterans, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam – 1,310 (VN-478 VS-832); Laos – 335; Cambodia – 59; Peoples Republic of China territorial waters – 7. Over 450 were over-water losses.
JPAC COMMANDER LED POW/MIA CONSULTATIONS: On August 12th, MG Stephen Tom, USAR, Commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), led a team of US officials to Vientiane for substantive discussions with Lao counterparts. US Ambassador to Laos Ravic Huso again participated, as he has so often in the past, joined by Defense Attaché LTC Jamie McAden, USA, Mr. Dustin Roses, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Stony Beach POW/MIA Team specialist now assigned in Vientiane, and specialists from JPAC and the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO). Such consultations are held twice each year, usually in Laos, but occasionally in Hawaii. Reports are that the talks were comprehensive, covering issues that had to be addressed, such as continued access by US officials to helicopter support for field operations and access by Stony Beach to participate in in-country investigations. Though talks were constructive, no positive results were reported.
General Tom also recently held talks with Royal Cambodian Government senior officials. These twice-yearly talks were held in Siem Reap, near the historic site of Angkor Wat. Results indicate further cooperation in the coming months, including agreement to hold another Provincial Governors Conference in the near future. Cooperation between the US and Cambodia on the accounting issue is hampered only by lack of US resources and failure of Vietnamese leaders to authorize release of relevant records on US personnel lost in areas of Cambodia where Vietnamese forces operated during wartime along the shared border.
ACCOUNTING COOPERATION: The comparatively small-scale 100th Joint Field Activity (JFA) is now taking place in Vietnam, though an advance team went in about two weeks earlier. Two excavation teams and two investigation teams are conducting operations that began August 2nd and are expected to conclude September 7th. A US Navy ship, with a JPAC underwater archeologist and master diver, participated in a side-scanning sonar search in waters off Cambodia waters on a short operation that concluded August 10th.
From June 22nd to the end of July, three JPAC Recovery Teams participated in a 30-day Joint Field Activity in Laos where they excavated three aircraft crash sites in two Lao provinces associated with the loss of four individuals. This was the 115th JFA in Laos, again noticeably smaller than the 50-person cap allowed by the Lao Government for each JFA.
JPAC also has had teams focused on World War II investigations and recoveries operating in Papua New Guinea, the Republic of Kiribati (Tarawa), the Peoples Republic of China and Germany, plus recently completed operations in Vanuatu and Austria.
41ST ANNUAL MEETING CONCLUDES: The July 22-24th meeting brought over 200 Vietnam War family members to the Hilton Crystal City Hotel to hear briefings and updates from US officials most directly working to account for America’s unreturned veterans, our POW/MIAs. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg’s remarks coincided with Secretary of State Clinton’s visit to Vietnam for discussions with counterparts at the ASEAN Regional Forum. State Department’s interventions have been especially helpful over the years, especially the strong support of our US Ambassadors in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) keynoted the Opening Session that also featured the senior Defense Department official present, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Pete Verga, appearing for the second time at the League’s annual meeting, as was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Director of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) Bob Newberry. The Opening Session concluded with an on-target assessment by the League’s Senior Policy Advisor Richard T. Childress, never one to shy away from helpful critiques of the US Government’s efforts, past, present and/or planned.
A special highlight was the participation of BG Robert Carr, USA, Deputy Director of Operations at the Defense Intelligence Agency, followed by DIA’s Stony Beach Lao Specialist and a panel of experienced Southeast Asia intelligence analysts, moderated by League Intelligence & Research Advisor George “Jay” Veith.
At the 41st Annual Dinner, guests were treated to a patriotic concert by the US Army Chorus, a favorite for decades. This year, the League Award was presented to the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, accepted by VFW Executive Director Bob Wallace, who had spoken of his and the VFW’s commitment to the issue during his presentation on the VFW’s support for and involvement in the work of the US-Russian Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs.
A full report that covers many specifics will be forthcoming. the lead-off by JPAC Commander MG Stephen Tom, USAR, set the tone for the professional briefings and presentations. The quality of such information improves and increases each year as capabilities expand and are applied. These range from Geospatial Intelligence and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to intelligence collection, analysis and archival research, to the forensic ID process and use of mtDNA, as well as other forms of DNA.