POW/MIA Update: February 8, 2016

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam war is still 1,624. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 961. 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 1,024. 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 loss locations. 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 VISITS CAMBODIA, LAOS & VIETNAM: DPAA Director Mike Linnington recently made his first trip to the three most directly engaged Vietnam War countries. He first briefly visited Cambodia, then made official calls in Vientiane, Laos, and 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. He also visited DPAA and Vietnamese teams 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. On December 5th, Mr. Linnington briefed the Board of Directors on this important, introductory visit that came at a time of ever-increasing bilateral political, economic and military-to-military cooperation.

DPAA LEADERS VISIT ONGOING FIELD OPERATIONS: During a quick visit to the region, US-Lao and US-Cambodian specialists conducting field operations were visited by DPAA Deputy Director BG Mark Spindler, USA, and DC-based Principal Staff Director Fern Sumpter Winbush. Although joint field recoveries and investigations related to the Vietnam War have resumed at a higher level, the Vietnamese, in particular, have repeatedly called for increasing the pace and scope of such operations, in fact since 2009. At present, the political climate, regionally and bilaterally with Vietnam, lends itself to expanding cooperation across the board.

REPATRIATIONS OF REMAINS: On December 10th, remains that could be those of two US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, recovered during joint field operations in Laos, were honored at a repatriation ceremony, attended by US Ambassador Dan Clune. On December 12th, remains believed to be those of four US personnel, also missing and unaccounted-for since the Vietnam War, were honored in a repatriation ceremony at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi. Some were turned over by civilian Vietnamese and others were recovered during field recovery operations in Vietnam. The four remains were reviewed by Vietnamese and American forensic specialists who determined the potential for identification. US Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius was joined by specialists from DPAA’s Detachment 2 and the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) in honoring those repatriated. In remarks, Ambassador Osius reportedly expressed gratitude for the goodwill and increasingly efficient and effective cooperation being afforded by the Government of Vietnam. The League extends sincere appreciation to all – American and Vietnamese – for the policy and operational support and/or participation which contributed to this repatriation and looks forward to further expanding the level of effort that can lead to increased accounting results.

DPAA DIRECTOR VISITING MOSCOW: Following coordination with the US Chairman of the US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs (USRJC) General Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), and with interagency approval, DPAA Director Linnington traveled to Moscow February 8th to meet with Russian Co-Chairman General Colonel Valery Vostrotin. The focus is to propose the agenda and date for a USRJC Plenary Session later this year in Washington, DC. There is great hope of renewing and restoring the work of the Joint Commission, especially since the Russian Federation named its new Chairman and opened its new office, located in the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington, DC. This important office was opened in July of last year and is headed by Maxim N. Alekseev, an impressive Russian official with a diverse background and record of experience. Recognizing it was past time to get beyond the endless delays that have plagued work of the USRJC, the League welcomes and appreciates these new initiatives by both countries and looks forward to increased efforts and accounting results. Director Linnington will also visit several European countries and US Ambassadors and US Military Commanders in the region, who will be contributing to the effort to conduct WWII recoveries.