AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: The number still missing (POW/MIA) and otherwise unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR) from the Vietnam War is still 1,587. Of that number 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia or Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,246 (VN-443, VS-803); Laos-286; 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 996. A breakdown by country of these 996 Americans is: Vietnam – 672, Laos – 279, 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 1,059. These 63 Americans, were accounted for by US-only efforts in accessible areas, not due to cooperation by post-war governments in Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia. A total of 287 have been accounted for from Laos, 727 from Vietnam, 42 from Cambodia and 3 from the PRC. NO IDs have been announced since July 29th.
VIETNAM WAR ACCOUNTING OPERATIONS: Newly assigned DPAA Director of Operations RDML Darius Banaji, USN, visited Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for the first time. His visit included time with DPAA teams conducting field operations in Laos and Vietnam and personnel assigned to Detachment 2 in Hanoi and Detachment 3 in Vientiane. In addition, he met with US Embassy staff, as well as counterpart government officials in both countries and in Cambodia and Thailand. Before he retired on October 25th, RDML Banaji’s predecessor, RDML Jon Kreitz, USN, held POW/MIA Technical Talks in Hanoi and Phnom Penh and consultations with the Lao in Hawaii. In all instances, the talks were described as positive, helpful and productive; DIA Stony Beach intelligence specialists were included in all sessions. Best wishes are extended to RDML Banaji as he assumes the significant responsibilities inherent with his new position and learns more about the mission.
DPAA STATISTICS: As of January 13, 2020, DPAA listed 72,632 still unaccounted-for from World War II, 7,603 from the Korean War, 1,587 from the Vietnam War, 126 from the Cold War, 5 from the Gulf Wars, and 1 from Operation El Dorado Canyon, for a total of 81,954. Of that total, 75% of the losses are located in the Indo-Pacific, and over 41,000 are presumed lost at sea (i.e. ship losses, known aircraft water losses, etc.). It should also be noted that over 41 IDs have been made on remains that came out of North Korea in the 55 flag-draped transfer cases. In addition, DPAA leaders stated publicly that included is DNA of more than 150 US personnel, plus just under 100 likely PRC or South Korean indigenous personnel. DNA reference samples are available on 92% of families of the unaccounted-for from the Korean War. Korean War IDs for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) reached 73; the WWII total is 140 for FY19. Only 5 Vietnam War personnel were accounted for during that same one-year period, and none from the Cold War for a total of 218 IDs announced by DPAA for FY19, a record number for the DPAA Lab.
POW/MIA FLAG TO BE DISPLAYED YEAR-ROUND: On November 7th, President Trump signed into law the “National POW/MIA Flag Act,” introduced by Representatives Jack Bergman, (R-MI) and Chris Pappas (D-NH) on March 7, 2019. The League-originated POW/MIA flag is now required to be displayed whenever the American flag is posted on prominent federal properties, including the White House, US Capitol, World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, National Vietnam Veterans Memorial, every national cemetery, the buildings containing the official offices of the Secretaries of State, Defense and Veterans Affairs, office of the Director of the Selective Service system, each major military installation, each Department of Veterans Affairs medical center and each office of the US Postal Service. The League is grateful for this tremendous level of support, a meaningful signal to all nations that America stands behind and with those who serve – past, present and future – and if captured or missing, all possible efforts will be made to recover and bring home our UNRETURNED Veterans.
FIELD OPERATIONS: The following photos were taken during recent field activities in Vietnam and Laos.
SSG Johnathan Swope, USA, assigned to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), removes debris from an excavation site during a recovery mission in Sekong Province, Laos Democratic People’s Republic, Nov. 6, 2019. The team is searching for the remains of missing US service members lost during the Vietnam War. (USN photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tyler Thompson)
Local Vietnamese workers pass buckets of dirt to the screening stations during DPAA recovery mission in Lang Son Province, Vietnam, Nov. 3, 2019. For more than two decades, the US has conducted joint field activities with the governments of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to recover the remains of missing Americans. Throughout these countries, field teams continue to investigate crash and burial sites, as well as interview locals to gain additional knowledge. (USAF photo by SSgt Rusty Frank)
Joint service members assigned to DPAA fold flags onto transfer cases, on board a C-17 Globemaster III in Tarawa, Republic of Kiribati, September 27, 2019. The service members are preparing the transfer cases containing 12 sets of remains believed to be US service members who died in WWII. The remains will be repatriated to the US and will undergo analysis at the DPAA laboratory with hopes of being identified. (USN photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amara Timberlake)
LEAGUE’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY ANNUAL MEETING: Although a full report is now out, it is noted that this year’s meeting was the largest, most significant in years. That’s not surprising; it was a year-long effort to plan and schedule speakers to maximize effectiveness. DPAA provided Facebook live streaming of all sessions. The following key factors applied:
- A Retrospective featured key participants, led by eight-year National Security Council Director of Asian Affairs Richard Childress. He outlined the very difficult challenges that were met throughout the 1980s, building on President Reagan’s commitment and priority;
- Former Army Chief of Staff, now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, USA, and Ambassadors Ha Kim Ngoc of Vietnam, Khamphan Anlavan of Laos and Chum Sounry of Cambodia were key participants;
- DPAA Director Kelly McKeague again pledged five years of operational priority on Vietnam War accounting. DPAA leaders and specialists, and DIA’s Stony Beach Team of POW/MIA investigators, briefed on current operations and approach.
Chairman’s Comment: Despite many challenges, including continuing structural dysfunction within DPAA, there is reason for measured optimism. With sustained support from the families and our nation’s veterans, the League is determined to press for priority and answers on Vietnam War accounting, as pledged by DPAA Director Kelly McKeague. The League also supports field investigation and recovery of unaccounted-for personnel from WWII, the Korean War and the Cold War as a priority over disinterment and ID of remains buried as “unknowns” in US cemeteries at home and abroad, so long as Vietnam War accounting efforts remain DPAA’s operational priority.
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