POW/MIA Bulletin Update 06 February 2009

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,742 US personnel listed by the Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO) as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. There have been no recent announcements of Vietnam War personnel identified since December 15th. The number of US personnel accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 841. 90% of the 1,742 still missing from the Vietnam War were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control.

LEAGUE DELEGATION GOING TO LAOS, CAMBODIA & VIETNAM: Executive Director Ann Mills Griffiths will again lead a small team to Southeast Asia for discussions with senior officials in each named country. Departing on March 15th, this trip will be the 29th or 30th taken by the executive director since her first in 1982, on both League and US Government delegations. By vote of the Board of Directors, Senior Policy Advisor Richard Childress and Vice Chairman of the Board Mark Stephensen will complete the three-member delegation. Family members are asked to consider sending brief, thoughtfully-worded letters to relevant officials in the country where their loved one was lost, either thanking them for answers received (as is the case for Mark Stephensen and his family), or appealing for answers and greater cooperation, as is pertinent for over 1,700 families. Please send all letters to the League office, in an envelope containing your letter to a Vietnamese, Lao or Cambodian official in a smaller, unsealed envelope. All appropriate letters will be taken to the respective country of loss.

DEFENSE ATTACHE OFFICE OPENED IN LAOS: A Defense Attaché Office (DAO) was officially opened on December 5th at the US Embassy in Vientiane, Laos. The long-sought agreement to exchange military attaches between the US and Laos was first announced in 2007. The new US Defense Attaché, Army LTC James McAden, met with senior officials at the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense as part of the DAO opening. US Ambassador to Laos Ravic R. Huso hosted a reception that evening for Lao and US officials and counterpart attaches in the embassies of other countries with representation in Vientiane. LTC McAden is a Southeast Asia Foreign Area Officer (FAO) who most recently served as Deputy to the Foreign Policy Advisor at US Pacific Command (PACOM) in Hawaii and previously at the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. He holds a Master of Arts in Asian Studies from Johns Hopkins University and an Advance Diploma in Strategic and Defense Studies from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He is a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College and of the Malaysian Armed Forces Staff College.

DEFENSE ATTACHE ACCEPTED BY VIETNAM: After months of awaiting approval from the Vietnamese Government, COL Patrick Reardon, USA, has now assumed his position as Defense Attaché (DATT) in Hanoi. The first exchange of attaches between the US and Vietnam occurred fairly early in the bilateral relationship formally established in 1995. The resulting improvements in the military-to-military relationship have been useful and are beneficial to both countries, including the pursuit of answers on America’s POW/MIAs. Vietnam has repeatedly announced agreement that a USN ship could be used in the accounting process, most recently by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dug during his visit to Washington in June, 2008. The mission was planned for March, 2009; however, Hanoi recently postponed again. The League had hoped that the announcement by the Prime Minister would overcome any remaining obstacles, and it now looks as though the current target timeframe is June/July of this year.

JPAC OPERATIONS: The 107th Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos began January 25th and will end February 18th, a shorter period of time in the field to conduct operations than is routinely the case. Two investigation teams, including a DIA Stony Beach official, and one recovery team. A recovery is continuing on one case in Cambodia that began on January 13th and will conclude on February 9th. No operations took place during the last half of December to enable all personnel to spend holidays with family and friends; however, activities have geared up quickly. Trilateral investigations begin soon in Laos, teams are currently in Cambodia and South Korea conducting field operations, and a JPAC delegation just completed talks in the PRC aimed at working out acceptable terms for conducting joint field operations.

STATUS OF THE LEAGUE: Since the financial appeal was distributed in mid-October, funds have been received to enable the League to continue for the present; however, the outcome is by no means clear. The Board of Directors will meet February 6-8th to discuss where things stand and make necessary decisions, including election of a Board of Directors for 2009 – 2011. Every possibility is being exhausted to ensure the League’s continuation, despite the economic recession at home and abroad, and many former and current US officials have contributed, recognizing the importance of the League’s role to ensure priority efforts continue. Members and supporters are urged to be imaginative in trying to raise funds and to contribute to the extent possible to sustain League efforts, without which POW/MIA accounting will be solely in the hands of elected and appointed politicians and career officials.

PLAN NOW TO ATTEND THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY ANNUAL MEETING JULY 22-25, 2009: This year’s annual meeting promises to be special, including commemoration of 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. Importantly, it will also be the first year of the Obama Administration. Such political turmoil brings with it many changes in leadership and focus that, hopefully, will benefit the issue, but require close attention and actions by all members and supporters, especially our major national veterans organizations. Please do your part and start planning now to attend, arriving early if possible to call on Members of Congress and visit meaningful sites in our nation’s capital BEFORE the important sessions start on Thursday, July 23rd. The Secretary of Defense is again expected to authorize COIN Assist travel. Reservations can now be made at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel by calling 1-800-HILTONS, or on line at www.hiltons.com. The deadline for securing the special rate of $149, plus tax, per room (single/double) per night is June 19th. To get the special rate you MUST indicated you are reserving rooms for the 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting.

COMBINED FEDERAL CAMPAIGN (CFC): The League (a 501 [c] 3 nonprofit) again met the stringent criteria for eligibility in the 2008 campaign, and has already applied for the 2009 campaign that doesn’t begin until next October. Our official number is the same, CFC #10218, assigned by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Washington, DC. The League is the ONLY nonprofit organization representing American POW/MIAs, KIA/BNRs and their families eligible for donations through CFC & United Way. Despite the reality of many competing charities and much need, especially in a time of war, the League is proud of our eligibility, due to tough requirements that must be met and is in urgent need of tax-deductible donations, FEIN #23-7071242.