In keeping with the President and First Lady’s commitment to honor the sacrifices of all who serve - veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors - the League's POW/MIA flag was restored to its globally recognized position on top of the White House. This action reaffirms our Nation's commitment to account as fully as possible for American Prisoners-of-War and Missing-in-Action, as well as other US personnel still unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War and wars and conflicts further past, thus ending the uncertainty of their families.
THE MEN ARE THE MISSION As of March 20, 2023, thenumber of Americans Missing and Unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is 1,581.
The article and meaningful photos below (author and photographer unknown), reflect the patriotism and support most Americans inherently feel toward those who serve and sacrifice for our Nation. Though the League has focused on accounting for our unreturned Vietnam War POW/MIA since formed in 1970, we are also proud, and deeply grateful, to have contributed significantly to building America's capacity - largely through DoD's Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) - to recover and identify heroes from wars and conflicts further past. It is heartening to see the incredible support Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class (GM3) Herman Schmidt, USN, received.
More than 300 people, most of them strangers to each other, showed up at Arlington National Cemetery on February 23, 2023, to ensure that U.S. Navy Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class (GM3) Herman Schmidt would not be buried alone.
Service members from every military branch attended, as well as Arlington police and firefighters, young people from the Civil Air Patrol, and civilians—some wearing veteran baseball caps or leather vests with unit patches. All attended to pay last respects to the World War II veteran from the battleship USS Oklahoma, which capsized during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Many brought a single rose or a bouquet of flowers.
Schmidt died, along with 429 shipmates, after Japanese torpedoes capsized the battleship. Originally from Sheridan, Wyoming, Schmidt, a husband and father of a newborn son, had served in the Navy for at least four years before his death. Initially buried as an unknown at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, his remains were eventually identified as part of a 2015 Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency project to identify all of the Oklahoma’s crew.
Schmidt’s son, now more than 80 years old, lives in Wyoming; the only relative who could attend the funeral service was his great nephew, Gary Bishop, and his wife. Navy Chaplain (LCDR) Robert Price, who would conduct the service, put out a notice to his church for anyone to attend. The word spread from there. Veteran and patriotic groups sent out emails. More and more people learned about the World War II veteran’s service and decided to attend. And they came in droves.
Army Lt. Col. Melanie Rowland found out about the service from a West Point Society email, and attended with her husband, Navy Capt. Roy Apseloff. “I thought it was very fitting that we honored a brother in arms who is going to be laid to rest,” Rowland said, adding that the outpouring from the public “restored my hope in this country.” Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Dan Kolcun learned about the service from his American Legion Riders’ group. “I had the impression that there was going to be maybe one or two people here,” he explained.
Kimberly Agnello, a civilian, was contacted by her local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter. “They were calling on the daughters to come out and support a patriot,” she said. “I was also intrigued that they were able to identify his remains after all these years and finally put him to rest and let his family know,” she added as she teared up. “That was really special.” Standing next to Agnello was her friend Mea Peterson, who had been injured in Iraq while serving as an Army sergeant. “I understand what that support means to the family,” she said, “as I’ve been here in this situation before with other friends.” Her voice broke as she finished her sentence. Schmidt’s great nephew, Gary Bishop, admitted to being astonished by the crowd. “I didn’t know if there would be six people here,” he remarked.
At the funeral service, Chaplain Price asked the crowd why they had all come. Then he answered his own question: “We are here today because we are a people who do not forget those who have stood the watch and have sacrificed for us.” Then he turned to the urn holding Schmidt’s ashes and declared, “Welcome home GM3 Schmidt. Fair winds and following seas, you stand relieved. We have the watch!” He could have been speaking for everyone in attendance.
The Way Ahead
Minister of Public Security General To Lam received a delegation of the US National League of Families of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action (POW/MIA), which was on a visit to Vietnam, on December 12, in Hanoi.
Ann Mills-Griffiths, chairwoman of the board of directors of the National League of POW/MIA Families, praised Cambodia for being one the league’s most supportive partners as it sought to repatriate the remains of American soldiers who went missing during the war. Mills-Griffiths offered her thanks during a courtesy call with Minister of Interior Sar Kheng at the National Assembly on December 6.
“Despite the Covid-19 situation in Cambodia, the Kingdom has shown that there has been no slowdown in the search for the remains of missing American soldiers, and progress has been made. Cambodia has worked closely with its US partners,” she said. During the meeting, she told Sar Kheng that she has visited Cambodia many times, but this would likely be her last journey to the Kingdom. She extended her thanks to King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Sar Kheng and all of the officials who had worked tirelessly to provide humanitarian assistance in helping search for the remains of missing Americans. www.phnompenhpost.com/national/us-powmia-chair-praises-kingdom
Ann Mills-Griffiths, Chairman of the Board/CEO, National League of POW/MIA Families Visits The Queen Mother Library of the Documentation Center of Cambodia
Though names of Vietnam War missing seldom appear in recent DPAA releases, the League is thankful that US personnel lost in WWII and the Korean War are being disinterred from US cemeteries worldwide and, in a few WWII cases, being recovered. These Americans are being identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors. The League is grateful that our efforts since formation on May 28, 1970, are now bringing about long-overdue recognition, but remains hopeful that answers on our Vietnam War missing will soon increase and end the uncertainty of impacted families. Ann Mills-Griffiths, Chairman/CEO
MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced four burial updates for service members who have been missing and unaccounted-for from World War II and Korea. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:
-- Army Cpl. Tommie T. Hanks, 27, of Fort Worth, Texas, was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. On Nov. 26, 1950, he was reported missing in action while his unit was attempting to withdraw from east Ch’ongch’on River near Anju, North Korea. Following the war, his remains could not be recovered and there is no evidence that he was a prisoner of war. Hanks will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on a date yet to be determined. Read about Hanks. -- Army Pfc. Francis P. Martin, 25, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, was assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. His unit was engaged in battle with German forces near Lichtenberg, France, when he was wounded and reported missing. With no body recovered and the Germans never reporting him as a prisoner of war, on Jan. 17, 1946, the War Department issued a finding of death. Martin will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on a date yet to be determined. Read about Martin. -- Army Staff Sgt. James Rotunno, 27, of Brooklyn, New York, was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. His unit was engaged in the Battle of Reipertswiller in France when it was surrounded by German forces. On Jan. 20, 1945, his unit and four other companies attempted a break-out through German lines. Rotunno was among those killed the following day and his body could not be recovered. He will be buried in Rutherford, New Jersey, on a date yet to be determined. Read about Rotunno. -- Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Walter Nies, 23, of Eureka, South Dakota, was assigned to 96th Bombardment Squadron, 2nd Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force. On Jan. 24, 1944, the B-17F Flying Fortress bomber on which he was serving as a tail gunner was shot down by enemy fighters. The crew was captured by Germans, and Nies was among those sent to Stalag Luft 6 prisoner of war camp. Nies died on May 28, 1944,after being shot. He will be buried in Eureka, South Dakota, on a date yet to be determined. Read about Nies.
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RAF LAKENHEATH POW/MIA Activities. Thank you, Mr. Bob Hale, Education Development Volunteer @ Bentwaters Cold War Museum (BCWM) and UK / European Coordinator for the National League of POW/MIA Families
The League is always seeking for photos of POW/MIA flag, monuments, Missing Man Honors Tables, and POW/MIA empty chairs from your community to feature on our social media pages and website.
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Accounting for all of the missing will never be possible, but working together, we can and will achieve the fullest possible accounting for America's Vietnam War POW/MIAs. This message reaches those serving today in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and at bases, posts and stations around the world. They NEED TO know if captured or missing while serving, our nation will be there for them.