POW/MIA Update: November 24, 2015

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: In mid-October and again more recently, DPAA posted changes to the list of Vietnam War missing and unaccounted-for US personnel, now numbering 1,624. For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates and sometimes not even made, as was the case with the most recent changes. Several of those named in DPAA announcements this year demonstrate how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using scientific technology and processes that weren’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 959. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,022. Of the 1,624 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,266 (VN-467, VS-799); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7. These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate when investigations result in changes to locations of loss. Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

DPAA DIRECTOR COMPLETES VISITS TO CAMBODIA, LAOS & VIETNAM: DPAA Director Mike Linnington recently returned from his first-ever trip to any of the most directly engaged Vietnam War countries. He first visited Cambodia, though for just one day, then made official calls in Vientiane, Laos, then flew by helicopter to visit DPAA and Lao personnel conducting field operations. He returned to Vientiane before going on to Hanoi to meet with senior officials there. This important visit appears to have been mostly introductory and came at a time of ever-increasing political and economic relations, as well as bilateral military-to-military cooperation. He also visited US and SRV personnel conducting field operations in Vietnam before flying back to the US, arriving in time for a DPAA-hosted Family Update in Portland, ME, on November 14th. A report will be provided when available.

GENERAL FOGLESONG VISITS MOSCOW: US Chairman of the US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs General Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret) traveled to Moscow to meet on November 9* with the Russian Co-Chairman, General Colonel Valery Aleksandrovich Vostrotin. The two Co-Chairs outlined their hope for renewing and restoring the work of the USRJC and noted the importance of the new Russian Office of the USRJC located in the Embassy of the Russian Federation. This important office was opened in July of this year and is headed by Maxim N. Alekseev, an impressive Russian official with a diverse background and record of experience. The League welcomes this new initiative and looks forward to working with Mr. Alekseev and senior Russian officials in Moscow. It is past time to press forward and end the seemingly endless delays.

MORE GOOD NEWS: DPAA Director Linnington has decided to invite representatives of responsible national Veteran organizations to attend and observe briefings at DPAA-hosted Updates. The League deeply appreciates this return to including our Veterans in these meetings around the country. Though pretty general in content, the briefings given are firsthand and provided by responsible US officials. Since DPAA is stressing the importance of outreach and transparency, the DPAA-hosted Updates provide an opportunity for both.

ACCOUNTING RESULTS: Although the pace of joint field recoveries and investigations related to the Vietnam War has resumed to a higher level, the Vietnamese, in particular, have repeatedly called for increasing the pace and scope of such operations, in fact since 2009. It is crucial that there be no reduction in DPAA’s budget or the number of personnel to enable overdue responsiveness to Vietnam’s longstanding request. Now is not the time to pull back on fielding teams to accomplish the Vietnam War accounting. In fact the political climate, regionally and bilaterally with Vietnam, lends itself to expanding cooperation across the board.

It is the League’s hope that there will be no further reluctance to moving full speed ahead. The Vietnam War POW/MIA accounting mission is running out of time; that is the reality in terms of eye-witness accounts, immediate family members and preservation of skeletal material under very hostile conditions. NOW IS THE TIME TO CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND ENSURE THEY UNDERSTAND THAT THERE MUST BE NO REDUCTION IN BUDGET AND PERSONNEL FOR THE NEW DEFENSE POW/MIA ACCOUNTING AGENCY (DPAA).