AMERICANS ACCOUNTED-FOR: There are still 1,655 personnel listed by the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. The number of Americans announced by DPMO as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 928. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of remains repatriated from the Vietnam War to 991. Of the 1,655 missing and unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam–1,280 (VN-470, VS-810); Laos–314; Cambodia–54; PRC territorial waters–7. More than 450 over-water losses are among the 630 DPMO lists as No Further Pursuit (NFP) cases.
FIELD OPERATIONS IN SEA: No Joint Field Activities (JFAs) took place over the holidays, but the level of operations has been relatively high in SEA. With the impetus provided by high level visits and resulting commitments, the League is hopeful that the pace and scope of US efforts in Vietnam will continue to expand. VFW Senior Vice Commander in Chief William “Bill” Thien was with JPAC Detachment 2 in Vietnam pre-holidays, where he visited a field site and held meetings with Vietnamese officials in Hanoi. The VFW’s support and assistance have been and are invaluable. Time is growing short for getting answers before witnesses are no longer available, remains have disintegrated completely due to acidic soil in the region, or development has destroyed incident sites. Investigations to locate witnesses and incident sites are primarily conducted by JPAC personnel, augmented by DIA’s Stony Beach specialists. The next Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Vietnam is planned for March 12th – April 14th and will include five Recovery Teams (RTs) and two Investigations Teams (ITs).
Logistics issues still pose challenges in Laos; however, the Lao Government is now permitting travel by road (a longstanding request), though lack of reliable helicopter support is still a serious concern. The also agreed to consider and permit base-camping near excavation sites when necessary. Despite these recent agreements showing improved Lao flexibility, the scale of operations in Laos had dropped significantly. The JFA that began today in Laos consists of only one R) and one IT, augmented by Casualty Resolution Specialist Bill Gadoury and DIA’s Stony Beach Lao Specialist Dustin Roses. The reasons for JPAC’s decision to reduce the scope of the JFA is not clear, but was not due to a lack of Lao Government cooperation. Nevertheless, significant increases in pace and scope of operations in Laos will be tough unless and until the Lao Government takes steps to facilitate helicopter support for access to remote sites. (This requires a decision to grant a business license to an outside foreign company which supplies small-scale helicopters that meet US safety requirements.) Another JFA is scheduled from March 7th – April 10th that will consist of three RTs and one IT.
JPAC will conduct a JFA in Cambodia from February 5th – April 1st, utilizing one Underwater Recovery Team (URT and two RTs at sites associated with three incidents. The League is also pushing for expanded field operations in Cambodia to achieve accounting objectives there before it is too late.
A delegation, led by JPAC Commander Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague, USAF, is now in Beijing discussing with officials in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) the need for greater cooperation, needed primarily on the accounting for Korean War losses, but also some losses related to WWII and specific Vietnam War incidents, as well as archival document support and cooperation. Like Russia, the PRC was actively engaged in Vietnam and Laos during the Vietnam War.
JPAC regularly deploys team worldwide and continues to expand into more countries, recovering increased numbers of US personnel who served and sacrificed for our country from WWII, Korean War and Cold War. The League is pleased and grateful that our consistent work since 1970 has resulted in the enormous effort now being made and strongly supports such efforts, so long as achieving the fullest possible accounting for missing Vietnam War personnel is not reduced or jeopardized.
There is no news from the White House on any movement related to the US-Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) on POW/MIAs; however, major changes in Russia since the repeat election of Vladimir Putin as President of the Russian Federation that resulted in the removal of the Russian Chairwoman and several named Russian Commissioners. Additional information will be provided when available.
Chairman of the Board
National League of POW/MIA Families
5673 Columbia Pike, Suite 100
Falls Church, VA 22041