POW/MIA Bulletin Update 18 July 2009

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are now 1,737 US personnel listed by the Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO) as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. Recently, identifications were announced on three US Air Force personnel listed as MIA in South Vietnam on May 22, 1968. Those identified were Col William H. Mason, from AR; LtCol Jerry L. Chambers, from OK; and Chief MSgt John Q. Adam, from KS. The number of US personnel accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 846. 90% of the 1,737 still missing were lost in Vietnam or areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control.

USNS HEEZEN COMPLETES WORK OFF VIETNAM’S COAST: At long last, and thankfully, Vietnam’s leaders implemented their government’s prior agreement for the United States Navy Ship (USNS) Bruce C. Heezen, an oceanographic survey ship, to participate in humanitarian POW/MIA accounting efforts. A mission sought by the League since 1994, this bilateral effort should be able to expedite locating aircraft incident sites along Vietnam’s coast that could help account for US personnel believed lost over water, along Vietnam’s coastline, during the war. The League appreciates the work of officials in both governments who helped bring about this significant step forward and looks forward to receiving a report on this historic mission during our 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting.

VIETNAM’S PROPOSAL FOR EXPANDING JOINT FIELD OPERATIONS: 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. They based their proposal on the danger of losing incident sites to increased development, and the advancing age of witnesses. 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 and funding to meet Vietnam’s proposal. She also noted the possible need to “fence” relevant budgets to protect them from use on other issues, as happened before. This proposal warranted serious US consideration. Ambassador Charles Ray, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Affairs, responded positively to a League follow-up letter, indicating interest in this proposal and willingness to work with JPAC to determine the levels of personnel and funding required to respond effectively to Vietnam’s proposal. Ambassador Ray’s response was most welcome. Anyone wishing a copy of the oral and written testimonies can obtain them by contacting the League office.

Comments: The League is not in a position to suggest the specific number of additional personnel required, but recognizes the need for 4-5 more field teams to prevent an adverse impact on recovery of US losses from earlier wars. JPAC funding is not adequate in the current FY09 budget, much less increased requirements, nor does it include funding for operations in North Korea, if it happens to open up as hoped. An increase of at least $20+ million would likely be needed, with a plus-up of at least 100 people. In addition to forensic anthropologists and other scientific staff, JPAC headquarters directorates, JPAC Detachment II in Hanoi, more linguists and trained DIA Stony Beach specialists would be needed to expedite in-country research and investigations. It is also possible that more personnel would be needed in the Service Casualty Offices responsible for notifications and communication with family members.

JPAC OPERATIONS: JPAC Commander RADM Donna Crisp, USN, recently led a team from JPAC headquarters at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, to meet with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee in Siem Reap, Cambodia, near the historic location of Angkor Wat. The talks reinforced the already 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.

The 110th Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos began on June 23rd. Four Recovery Teams (RTs will be conducting excavations, two in Houaphan Province and two in Xieng Khoang Provinde. These operations are expected to conclude on July 28th. The 109th JFA in Laos saw one Investigation Team (IT) conducting operations in Khammouan Province and two RTs excavating sites in southern Attapeu Province. The 95th JFA in Vietnam was recently completed. Two ITs and 4 RTs conducted operations in several provinces, and one Underwater Investigation Team (UIT) was involved in the surveys conducted by the USNS Heezen noted above. The USNS Heezen’s contributions may be slightly less than had been planned initially due to its shortened time on station in Vietnamese waters. The 95th JFA concluded on June 24th with the repatriation of remains that could be those of two US personnel. A Repatriation Ceremony held July 17th also included the remains of one American that were turned over by a Vietnamese citizen. JPAC also has a Recovery Team in Vanuatu working on a WWII incident.

STATUS OF THE LEAGUE: The referendum sent to League members – family and associate – to determine the level of interest in and commitment to the League’s continuation was distributed during the last two weeks of March with the League Newsletter. The results were discussed May 1-2nd by the Board of Directors. The financial response has been significant, but inadequate to sustain the League in its current composition; however, the national office will continue to operate at least until March 1, 2010, and longer if donations increase. Recognizing the importance of the League’s role in the issue, many former and current US officials have also contributed generously. The League will continue to pursue every feasible avenue to continue our important mission. Family members are urged to be imaginative in trying to raise funds and to contribute to the extent possible to sustain League efforts, as some already are, though the number is too few.

ELECTIONS HELD FOR 2009-2011 BOARD OF DIRECTORS: As called for in the Bylaws, an election for the 2009-2011 Board of Directors was just completed, and the results (received and counted by a CPA firm) will be announced at the League’s 40th anniversary Annual Meeting. All League family members with dues paid to January 1, 2009, received ballots.

40TH ANNIVERSARY ANNUAL MEETING JULY 22-25, 2009: This year’s annual meeting will be special, commemorating over 35 years since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and 40 years since the League was formed, then incorporated on May 28, 1970. Governmental transitions are taking place, and there will be much to discuss and decide in terms of the League’s and the issue’s future in this first year of the Obama Administration.

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michéle Flournoy (top Defense Department policy official) will address the 40th Anniversary Annual Dinner, accompanied by her husband, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs W. Scott Gould.

Our Keynote Speaker at the Opening Session will be Admiral Timothy Keating, USN, Commander, US Pacific Command (PACOM). Registration to attend the 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting is now closed.

And please don’t forget the Silent Auction; bring something (small) that you believe others will want to purchase and have room to take home. The income from this enjoyable event is a real boost for the League.

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