AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There have been no Vietnam War ID’s announced since October 17th when DPAA posted the names of two Vietnam War personnel as now accounted for. LT Richard C. Lannom, USNR, TN, listed MIA on 3/1/68, NVN, was recovered 12/13/17 and ID’d on 9/25/18. Mr. George L. Ritter, Air America, PA, listed MIA on 12/27/71, Laos, was recovered 12/13/17 and ID’d on 9/25/18. Prior to that, DPAA announced on 8/24/18 that CDR James B. Mills, USNR, CA, was accounted for on 8/20/18. Listed as MIA on 9/21/66, NVN, CDR Mills’ remains were recovered in June, 2018. Earlier in the month, DPAA announced that Col Richard A. Kibbey, USAF, NY, was accounted for on 8/6/18. Listed as MIA on 2/6/67, NVN, Col Kibbey’s remains were reported as returned on April 13, 2017 and identified 8//6/18. Prior to that, and dated 7/17/18, DPAA released the name of Col Frederick M. Mellor, USAF, listed as MIA, NVN, on 8/13/65; his remains were recovered 3/30/92. Prior to this posting, the most recent Vietnam War accounted-related release was on May 31st when DPAA posted the name of LCDR Larry R. Kilpatrick, USN, of GA, though he actually was accounted for on May 18th. Listed as MIA on 6/18/72 in North Vietnam, remains were recovered 12/14/15. The number still missing (POW/MIA) and otherwise unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR) from the Vietnam War is 1,592. Of that number, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia or Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,247 (VN-452, VS-795); Laos-290; Cambodia-48; PRC territorial waters-7.
Since chartered in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for the missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains. The total accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 991. A breakdown by country of these 991 Americans is: Vietnam – 671, Laos – 275, Cambodia – 42, and the PRC – 3. In addition, 63 US personnel were accounted for between 1973 and 1975, the formal end of the Vietnam War, for a grand total of 1,054. These 63 Americans, accounted for by US-only efforts in accessible areas, were not due to cooperation by post-war governments in Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia. Combined, a total of 283 have been accounted for from Laos, 726 from Vietnam, 42 from Cambodia and 3 from the PRC.
NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY: On September 21, 2018, Secretary of Defense General James N. Mattis, USMC (Ret), delivered inspirational, encouraging messages that signal solid US commitment to the accounting mission. In part he stated:
“As we honored those who returned after enduring our enemy’s worst, we also remember those still missing in action, those still awaiting their return. And we thank their families for their unrelenting courage and faith, as we strive to bring them home – some of these families honor us by their presence here today”
We are grateful to the men and women of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Veteran Service Organizations and other advocates for their fierce resolve and tireless commitment to realize this mission. You give today’s warriors great courage and confidence as they launch into harm’s way knowing that no matter what destiny has in store for them, they will never be forgotten and that their fellow citizens will go to the ends of the earth to bring them home.”
As examples of family members present, the Secretary stated…“the family of Army Sergeant Edward Saunders, a soldier in the 2nd Infantry Division who was killed following his capture in Korea by Chinese forces in 1951. Also the family of CDR James. B. Mills, a radar intercept officer shot down over the Gulf of Tonkin in 1966. His sister, Ann Mills-Griffiths, has carried his memory in her advocacy for this community ever since. And we are so grateful that he’s home now.
In August, your community and our entire military family received an infusion of hope in the repatriation and homecoming to Hawaii of 55 cases of remains from the Korean War. President Trump made this a priority in his meetings with Chairman Kim. Because of it, we can welcome home two long lost heroes, Army Private First Class William H. Jones of Nash County, North Carolina and Army Master Sergeant Charles H. McDaniel of Vernon, Indiana. Two beloved sons of America, finally home on our soil.”
Our POWs, our missing in action, their families, they have met the most terrible challenges undeterred, with the highest fortitude, honoring a nation that loves them for what they call out in each of us. And for that, we owe an irredeemable debt of gratitude.”
Chairman’s Comment: Recognizing the importance to the Trump Administration’s interagency community, the League especially welcomes the strong commitments made by Secretary of Defense Mattis. We also recognize the importance of DoD’s continued support for longstanding US policy to pursue accounting objectives on a separate humanitarian basis, despite political or policy issues that divide the US and counterpart countries in which cooperation is imperative. The League was very pleased to learn that National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies were held in Bangkok, Hanoi and Vientiane. POW/MIA Recognition Day – 2018 undoubtedly hit an all-time record for the number of events held throughout the country and on military installations and some US Embassies around the world. The significant expansion is due to many factors, including social media, but was heightened by the Singapore Summit in June and agreement reached between President Trump and Chairman Kim to repatriate remains of US personnel killed during the Korean War.
BREAKTHROUGH ON AMERICANS UNACCOUNTED-FOR FROM KOREAN WAR: In a formal statement signed by President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un, the United States and North Korea agreed to the recovery and repatriation of Americans still unaccounted-for from the Korean War. This stunning agreement, a potential win-win-win scenario, affords the affected families from the US, South Korea and Japan, in particular, an unprecedented opportunity to obtain long awaited answers.
As pledged, on July 27th, North Korea turned over 55 transfer cases, draped with the United Nations flag under which they served during the Korean War. Though the actual number of remains is as yet unknown, they are being carefully analyzed at DPAA’s laboratories in an effort to establish individual identification. In fact, the first two identifications were announced: Army PFC William H. Jones and MSGT Charles H. McDaniel.
On September 27th, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, a formal ceremony was conducted to repatriate remains of some 64 Republic of Korea soldiers who were killed during the Korean War and recovered by the US from 1996 – 2005 in the DPRK. Scientists from both South Korea and the US worked together to ensure that the remains to be repatriated were those serving the Republic of Korea during the Korean War.
Chairman’s Comment: Having sought the fullest possible accounting for decades, the League and all POW/MIA families welcome this significant development. The League can take pride in having led the way and laid the groundwork for all that is evolving nearly 50 years since officially formed on May 28, 1970.
In the early 1980s, the Reagan Administration took the initiative to raise intelligence priorities and obtain the evidence that is now publicly known and forms the basis for accounting expectations, not only for the Vietnam War, but also the Korean War. As the demand for expanding the accounting mission raised to a higher level in the early 1990s and the Korean War/Cold War POW/MIA families began organizing, the League fully supported efforts to recover and account for US personnel who didn’t return from wars and conflicts further past, so long as the priority on Vietnam War POW/MIAs was not adversely impacted.
DPAA Director Kelly McKeague has pledged to sustain operational priority on accounting for as many as possible of our 1,592 unreturned veterans from the Vietnam War. The reality is that uncertainty is greater for Vietnam War families, and more immediate family members are impacted by US accounting efforts. Worldwide efforts are already ongoing, both operationally and from disinterring remains known to be American, buried as unknowns in US cemeteries around the world. These veterans are known to have died decades ago, but their families’ reaction to honoring and remembering long-lost loved ones is evident. Congress just approved additional funding for DPAA to expand operations into North Korea, and negotiations toward that objective are sporadic, but hopeful.
US/VIETNAM COOPERATION: DPAA and Defense Intelligence Agency/Stony Beach (DIA/SB) field operations resumed in mid-August and concluded in mid-September with a repatriation ceremony in Da Nang. US-SRV Technical Talks took place September 10th in Hanoi, led by DPAA Deputy Director Rear Admiral Jon Kreitz. As anticipated, Vietnam was responsive to US requests, other than a couple that are under discussion, and the pace and scope of cooperation continues to expand.
Chairman’s Comment: The League deeply appreciates efforts by the government and people of Vietnam to work constructively and effectively to achieve the fullest possible accounting. Vietnam’s early on-again, off-again cooperation has improved and steadily expanded over the last 40 years and today can be described as forward leaning, proposing initiatives and providing increased opportunities for success.
US/LAO COOPERATION: DPAA and SB personnel are now undertaking field investigation and recovery operations on cases of US personnel missing in Laos. The recent field recoveries in northern Laos also concluded with a repatriation ceremony conducted at the Luang Prabang Airport on August 14th. US-Lao consultations were held September 7th in Vientiane, led by RDML Kreitz. Significant agreement was reached to expand support for year-round DIA/SB investigations, and Joint Field Activities (JFAs) have now resumed.
Chairman’s Comment: The League looks forward to positive results from these efforts, recognizing and applauding several significant developments in POW/MIA cooperation that the Lao leadership has authorized in recent months. These include base-camping at remote locations, increasing the number of US participants on a case-by-case basis, and extensions of time on field recovery sites when justified. Despite often difficult conditions, including advance destruction of unexploded ordnance, conditions for humanitarian cooperation to account for US personnel continue to improve, for which all Americans are grateful. Hopefully, further Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sanctions against Laos for failing to accept Lao nationals who long ago immigrated to the US, were since convicted of criminal acts and are now scheduled for legal deportation back to Laos, will not negatively impact humanitarian POW/MIA cooperation.
US/CAMBODIAN COOPERATION: On October 12th, long-serving Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen announced in a letter to Washington State Senator Doug Erickson and Washington State Representative Vincent Buys that he has lifted the suspension on POW/MIA cooperation with DPAA, despite the ongoing US sanctions. Throughout the suspension, DIA’s Stony Beach Cambodia specialist, Eric Phillips, continued to conduct case investigations.
Chairman’s Comment: The League is grateful that Prime Minister Hun Sen has lifted the suspension, and we look forward to resuming our longstanding cooperation with him on this important humanitarian issue. We are also grateful to Senator Ericksen and Representative Buys for their work in advocating for the resumption of POW/MIA operations in Cambodia. Coming just in time for the dry season, it means that DPAA will be able to proceed with their important field operations working alongside their thoughtful, capable Cambodian counterparts.
US-RUSSIA JOINT COMMISSION (USRJC) ON POW/MIA AFFAIRS TO HOLD PLENUM: US Chairman General “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), and Russian Co-Chairman General Colonel Vostrotin have agreed to hold Plenary talks on Wednesday, November 28th, here in Washington, DC at the National Archives. Several events will take place over a three-day period, November 27-29th, including the customary break-out sessions focused separately on the Vietnam War, Korean War/Cold War and World War II. DPAA Director Kelly McKeague serves as the Vietnam War Working Group Chairman. VFW Executive Director Bob Wallace and League Chairman of the Board/CEO Ann Mills-Griffiths have both accepted invitations to serve as Special Advisors to the USRJC.
HOUSE PASSES H. RES. 129: On February 12, 2018 the House of Representatives passed this important resolution by a vote of 411 – 0, sending a unified message to the American people – including our Armed Forces serving today and our veterans, as well as foreign nations. Introduced by Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX), former Vietnam War POW, on February 14, 2017, his strong message on the House Floor occurred almost precisely 45 years after he and his fellow POWs were released from many years of captivity. Passage of this resolution reflected true bipartisan, non-political support for the humanitarian accounting mission. It is the US Senate’s turn to act.
The identical measure was simultaneously introduced in the US Senate by the late Senator John S. McCain (R-AZ) as S. RES. 61. Senate passage would further reinforce our country’s support for achieving the fullest possible accounting for those who serve our nation – past, present and future. To date, there are only 13 co-sponsors in the Senate, the most recent being September 25th. Members of the US Senate should be ashamed.
CONTACT YOUR SENATORS TO URGE IMMEDIATE PASSAGE OF S. RES. 61
On September 7, 2018, Representatives Mike Bishop (R-MI), Timothy Walz (D-MN, just elected to serve as Governor of Minnesota), and Sam Johnson (R-TX) introduced House Resolution 6734, the Full Military Honors Act of 2018 to allow enlisted Medal of Honor recipients and Prisoners of War (POW) who are eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery to receive a full military honors burial. Currently, full military honors are reserved for commissioned officers, warrant officers, and senior non-commissioned officers. On October 12th, there were 69 House co-sponsors, the most that very day.
CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES TO URGE PASSAGE OF H. RES. 6734.