POW/MIA Update: July 8, 2019

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: On 6/11/19, DPAA announced that Air Force Colonel Roy A. Knight, Jr, listed as MIA on 5/19/67 over Laos, is now accounted for. His remains were recovered on 2/28/19, and ID’d on 6/4/19. This was the first Vietnam War-related ID announcement since February and there have been none since. Prior to that, DPAA announced on 2/25/19 that Navy Reserve Journalist 3 Class Raul A. Guerra, USN, listed as MIA on 10/8/67, was accounted for. His remains were recovered on 8/15/05 and identified on 2/20/19. On January 15, DPAA posted the accounting for Roy F. Townley and Edward J. Weissenback, Air America, listed as missing on 12/27/71, in Laos. The DPAA release on accounting for George L Ritter, Air America from the same incident, indicated his recovery on 12/13/17, and ID on 9/25/18. Both Townley and Weissenback were recovered late last fall and their families were notified just before Christmas, 2018.

The number still missing (POW/MIA) and otherwise unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR) from the Vietnam War is now 1,588. 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-287; 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 995. A breakdown by country of these 995 Americans is: Vietnam — 672, Laos — 278, 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 1,058 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 286 have been accounted for from Laos, 727 from Vietnam, 42 from Cambodia and 3 from the PRC.

LEAGUE’S 50th! ANNIVERSARY ANNUAL MEETING SUCCESSFULLY CONCLUDES: Although a full report will be coming out shortly, it is accurate to say that this years meeting was the largest, most significant in years. That isn’t especially surprising since it was a year-long effort to plan and schedule speakers to maximize effectiveness. The following key factors applied:

1) Members who had not attended in years didn’t want to miss the 50″ Anniversary commemoration;

2) A great deal of emphasis was placed on a Retrospective that featured key participants who outlined the very difficult challenges that were met throughout the 1980s, building on President Reagan’s commitment and priority;

3) There was high level, very interesting participation by Army Chief 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;

4) DPAA Director Kelly McKeague again pledged five years of operational priority on Vietnam War accounting, plus leaders and field specialists, as well as DIA’s Stony Beach Team of POW/MIA investigators, briefed on current operations and approach; and

5) DPAA provided Facebook live streaming of all sessions.

Despite many challenges, including continuing 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 answers and priority on Vietnam War accounting, while supporting investigation and recoveries of unaccounted-for WWII, Korean War and Cold War personnel over disinterment and ID of remains of the known dead, so long as Vietnam War accounting efforts remain DPAA’s operational priority. TALKS MAY RESUME ON KOREAN WAR REMAINS RECOVERIES. Though there still is no clarity on when/whether agreement to restore remains recovery operations in North Korea will occur, but there is ongoing speculation and the subject is reportedly high on the agenda as it is something about which both leaders agree should be pursued on a separate humanitarian basis, regardless of political and/or policy differences. It is hoped that working level talks to work out modalities of in-country cooperation can resume soon and the work proceed before the frozen ground precludes such field recoveries.

INDO-PACIFIC STRATEGY REPORT PREPAREDNESS, PARTNERSHIPS, AND PROMOTING A NETWORKED REGION

Following excerpts are from the Defense Department’s June 1, 2019 publication, pages 36-37 & 40: VIETNAM

The Department is building a strategic partnership with Vietnam that is based on common interests and principles, including freedom of navigation, respect for a rules-based order in accordance with international law, and recognition of national sovereignty. The U.S.-Vietnam defense relationship has Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Admiral Phil Davidson visits Nepal, January 11, 2019. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Robin Peak After nearly 50 years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard, the Hamilton-class cutter (WHEC-722) was officially transferred to the Vietnam Coast Guard under the name CSB-8020. A transfer ceremony took place at Coast Guard Base, Honolulu, May 25, 2017. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Melissa McKenzie Indo – Pacific Strategy Report 37 grown dramatically over the past several years, as symbolized by the historic March 2018 visit of a U.S. aircraft carrier for the first time since the Vietnam War.

The Department is working to improve Vietnam’s defense capabilities by providing security assistance, including Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, T-6 trainer aircraft, a former U.S. Coast Guard high endurance cutter, and small patrol boats and their associated training and maintenance facilities. The U.S. military also engages in numerous annual training exchanges and activities to enhance bilateral cooperation and interoperability with the Vietnam People’s Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard. Additionally, DoD has provided training and technical assistance to support Vietnam’s 2018 deployment of a medical unit to the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan, and will continue to provide assistance to facilitate future deployments.

Our increasingly strong defense ties are based on a foundation of close cooperation to address legacy of war and humanitarian issues, which predates the restoration of diplomatic relations in 1995. As we look to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations in 2020, DoD remains committed to supporting U.S. efforts to clean up dioxin contamination and remove unexploded ordnance, and appreciates Vietnam’s continued assistance to account for U.S. personnel missing from the Vietnam War.

LAOS

Strategically located in the geographic heart of ASEAN and the Mekong sub-region, Laos presents opportunities for deepening security, economic, and diplomatic engagement. China is increasingly focused on Laos, and Beijing continues efforts to expand its strategic footprint through large debt-fueled investments, especially in infrastructure and energy. However, Laos is wary of overdependence and is seeking to diversify its partners and options. At the same time, Laos is experiencing a significant demographic shift — with a large majority of its population under the age of 35 — which presents a unique opportunity to engage a new, outward looking generation. The Lao military prioritizes Vietnam, Russia, and to a lesser degree China as its primary security partners. At the same time, the Laotian military is slowly expanding its international engagement portfolio, first to ASEAN and to a lesser degree to countries in the region such as Japan, Australia, and India. The United States supports activities that advance Laos’ integration into ASEAN, such as defense modernization, interoperability, English language proficiency, and respect for a rules-based international order. In the meantime, we are working to move past war legacy issues related to the Vietnam War and aim to conclude Prisoner of War/Missing in Action recovery operations honorably, and by 2030 to make Laos substantially risk-free of U.S.-sourced unexploded ordnance.

CAMBODIA

DoD seeks to build a productive military-to-military relationship with the Kingdom of Cambodia that protects its sovereignty, promotes military professionalism, and helps it become a responsible and capable contributor to regional security. In early 2017, Cambodia suspended all military-to-military exercises with the United States. We, however, continue to cooperate in peacekeeping operations, humanitarian mine action, medical research, and U.S. Missing in Action personnel accounting.

CHAIRMAN’S COMMENT: Itis very encouraging to see the POW/MIA accounting mission integrated into US policy priorities by release of this significant document in the very important Singapore Dialogue. Perhaps now we’ll also see follow-through by senior officials throughout the interagency policy community to reinforce the importance of humanitarian accounting efforts to the United States Government, the affected families, our nation’s veterans and the American people.

This specific report forms the basis for widespread implementation and will be extremely helpful so long as our expectations are reasonable and all aspects of official efforts are coordinated and fully integrated to maximize effectiveness and expand accounting results.

CONGRATULATIONS AND SINCERE APPRECIATION TO ALL WHO WORKED TO BRING ABOUT THIS HOPEFUL RENEWAL OF SERIOUS, GOVERNMENT WIDE EFFORTS!

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