Monday, February 04, 2008

POW/MIA Update: January 30, 2008

Wednesday 30 January 2008 at 17:59

by NC Sentinel

POW/MIA Update: January 30, 2008

AMERICANS ANNOUNCED AS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,763 US personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. The most recent identifications, though now months ago, brought to 820 the number of US personnel returned since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. 90+% of the 1,763 still missing and unaccounted-for were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control.

NEW JPAC COMMANDER VISITS SOUTH KOREA AND THE PRC: The new Commander of JPAC, RADM Donna Crisp, USN, is currently on her first trip to Asia as JPAC Commander, first meeting with South Korean officials in the Republic of Korea to discuss ways to expedite cooperation. Although according to news reports, no formal agreement was yet signed, it is well known that Deputy to the JPAC Commander, Mr. Johnie Webb, has been working closely with the South Koreans for many years, including the last two specifically focused on establishing a JPAC-like facility in South Korea. From Seoul, RADM Crisp was scheduled to go to Beijing to meet with officials from the PRC in an effort to restore recovery operations in that country. For this part of the trip, RADM Crisp was accompanied by Ms. Jennifer Nasarenko, Deputy Director of Policy and Negotiations (J5). US officials will return to Hawaii before the end of the week.

LEAGUE ACTIONS: While in Honolulu for the January 4th JPAC Change of Command, League Executive Director Ann Mills Griffiths met with ADM Timothy Keating, USN, Commander of the US Pacific Command (PACOM), who had visited Vietnam and Laos in December, to hear his views and discuss several key topics, including use of the USN ship for underwater surveys and recoveries and the importance of getting DIA’s Stony Beach personnel permanently assigned in Vietnam and Laos. In addition, discussions were held with US Ambassador to Laos Ravic Huso, RADM Crisp, several JPAC officials, a DIA Stony Beach team member and a Navy specialist who provided a detailed briefing on the US Navy’s hydrographic ship proposed for use along Vietnam’s coastline.

Underwater Surveys by USN Ship: Although not yet scheduled for a specific date, there are conflicting reports as to the reasons why the USNS Bruce Heezen has not yet been scheduled for the underwater survey mission. Recognizing that there are many organizations and bureaucracies involved in the complex process, there is no lack of serious interest and commitment at the top from PACOM Commander ADM Keating or US Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Michalak. Admittedly, the issues are complex, and the level of priority varies within each government and organization, but reasons include Vietnam’s failure thus far to complete inter-ministerial coordination and US failure to present its formal proposal that, logically, should come first. The optimum time of year for such underwater operations is May-June, and the USNS Mercy is scheduled to conduct a humanitarian dental mission to Vietnam at that time. As a result, this important step sought by the League since 1994, agreed to by Hanoi in October 2006, formalized between the two governments in November 2006 and made logical and timely by the improved and improving military-to-military relationship, may not occur until May-June, 2009!

Status of DIA’s Stony Beach Team: Also a long-pursued League priority is permanent assignment of Stony Beach specialists in each country. Despite many years of effort, the Vietnamese have continued to delay and obstruct assigning these specialists to the US Embassy staff, not as an extension of JPAC, but as a compliment to the joint investigation process. In this era of “normal” relations, Vietnam’s continued refusal to accept the Stony Beach specialists – as value-added members of the humanitarian accounting process – is unacceptable. Such specialists are now permanently assigned in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and the Lao Government agreed last year to exchange Defense Attaches in FY2008. That will mean an office in Vientiane that will include a Stony Beach Lao specialist. There has long been a Defense Attaché in Hanoi, a step the League supported, and if Vietnam’s obstructionism persists, US officials should strongly urge positive action on this issue.

UPDATE ON JPAC OPERATIONS: The 102nd Joint Field Activities (JFAs) began in Laos with the JPAC team’s departure on January 9th. Four Recovery Teams (RT’s) are operating over a 30-day period in Khammouan and Xekong Provinces, scheduled to conclude on February 13th, in time for the Lunar New Year celebrations. The 40th JFA in Cambodia began work on January 15th. One RT is working two cases in Ratanakiri and Stung Treng Provinces. The second RD is working Kampong Sam Province, off the coast of southern Cambodia, at Koh Tang (Tang Island). This was the site of the May, 1975 USS Mayaguez incident involving the Khmer Rouge and rescue attempts that took the lives of many US personnel, some of whom were sadly believed to have been unintentionally left behind alive when US forces departed and later killed and buried on Koh Tang. The Cambodia operations will end on March 1st. JPAC specialists, plus members of the US Navy’s Mobile Diving Salvage Unit #!, began work on January 15th in the Republic of Palau conducting ground and underwater recovery operations on WWII losses. Joint operations will resume in Vietnam after the Lunar New Year holidays.

39TH ANNUAL MEETING SCHEDULED: Start planning now to attend the League’s 39th Annual Meeting, June 19-22nd, again being held at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel, Arlington, VA. It is anticipated that the Department of Defense will again authorize commercial flights for two family members to represent each missing and unaccounted for serviceman or civilian still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. The two persons authorized transportation will be designated by the primary next-of-kin (PNOK). Arrival date will be Wednesday, June 18th, for most, to ensure availability for early Thursday morning when the sessions actually begin.

COMBINED FEDERAL CAMPAIGN (CFC): Though technically now concluded, the League was notified that the stringent criteria for the 2007 campaign were met; our new (five digit) number is 10218, assigned by the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Washington, DC. The League is the ONLY nonprofit organization representing American POW/MIAs, KIA/BNR’s 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, knowing the tough requirements that any organization must meet. We have also applied for the 2008 Combined Federal Campaign and, if again successful, our eligibility number will remain the same: 10218.


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