AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: The most recent DPAA release on Vietnam War accounting was July 26, 2019, with the identification of Major Neal C. Ward, USAF. Listed as MIA in Laos on 6/13/69, his remains were recovered on 12/13/17, and identified on 7/19/19. 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. Prior to that, DPAA announced on 2/25/19 that Navy Reserve Journalist 3rd 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, 2019, 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 missing (POW/MIA) and otherwise unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR) from the Vietnam War is still 1,587. 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-286; 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 996. A breakdown by country of these 996 Americans is: Vietnam – 672, Laos – 279, 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 1,059. 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 287 have been accounted for from Laos, 727 from Vietnam, 42 from Cambodia and 3 from the PRC.
“SALUTE TO AMERICA” OFFERED PROMISE: The President’s support for US Armed Forces and veterans can be interpreted to include sustained priority on the accounting mission, but the League is seeking clarification. The President can and should confirm continuing and expanded priority, focus and attention to pursuing answers about America’s UNRETURNED VETERANS. Supported by the major national veteran organizations, the League is working to ensure that accounting for Vietnam War missing, as pledged by DPAA Director Kelly McKeague at the League’s 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting, June 20, 2019, truly is a policy priority, supported on an interagency basis. Achieving factually-based, realistic accounting goals IS doable if we all reinforce our determination to do more, whether donating funds or by actively engaging in building public interest and support, via social media. The League’s 50-year quest for answers to end the uncertainty of Vietnam War POW/MIA families has vastly expanded. Now included are remains recoveries from North Korea (DPRK), China (PRC), countries which comprised the former Soviet Union (USSR), worldwide efforts to recover many thousands killed during the Cold War, Korean War and World War II, as well as disinter and identify the remains of thousands buried as unknowns in US cemeteries in Europe, Asia and here in the US. The differences in pursuing answers in these varied countries are complex and demanding, but standing strongly with and behind those who serve our country may finally resume the national priority President Reagan established in the early 1980s. It is now our responsibility to ensure Members of Congress, on a bipartisan basis, understand the need to provide adequate funding, personnel and resources to accomplish the expanded mission outlined above. We must also ensure the Trump Administration recognizes the need to return home as many of these UNRETURNED VETERANS as possible.
50th ANNIVERSARY ANNUAL MEETING: This year’s annual meeting was truly a celebration of all the League has achieved for POW/MIA families, initially Vietnam War only now extended to wars and conflicts further past, as the lasting impact on our nation and the world. Opening Session formalities on June 20th were led by Elko, Pocatello, Boise Valley and Magic Valley POW*MIA associations. A brief “In Memory and Honor” ceremony, led by Vice Chairman of the Board Mark Stephensen, recognized the very few US personnel accounted for since the 49th Annual Meeting, highlighted by a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace,” sung by MG Arnold M. Fields, USMC (Ret), representing DoD’s 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commission. There followed a very informed, welcome policy message by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy, now confirmed by the US Senate and serving as US Ambassador to Cambodia. The DPAA-designed poster to commemorate National POW/MIA Recognition Day was unveiled by then VFW Director for Public Affairs Joe Davis and the League Chairman. (Posters were provided to all at the conclusion of Opening Session.) A key feature of the Opening Session was theRetrospective of the difficult early years, 1981-89, during which President Reagan made clear the priority he placed on accounting as fully as possible for our Vietnam War POW/MIAs, later amended to include original status KIA/BNRs. For the first time, the postwar build-up of US efforts to pursue bilateral cooperation with Vietnam. Laos and Cambodia was provided in succinct, accurate presentations. The priority with which accounting objectives were pursued and sustained in later years brought the accounting effort to where it is today. More than most Americans, Vietnam War POW/MIA families and veterans recognize the validity of what was accomplished by utilizing Vietnam's self-described "bridge to normalization of relations” with the US that brought about the US-constructed "Roadmap to Normalization" of relations, through which 996 Americans have been accounted for since the actual end of the Vietnam War in 1975. The chronology laid out by League Senior Policy Advisor Richard Childress, having served eight years as Director of Asian Affairs on the Reagan National Security Council Staff, provided the accurate back-ground of efforts during these difficult years in which Ann Mills-Griffiths participated as a full member of the US Government’s POW/MIA Interagency Group (IAG). Other key participants were former Deputy Secretary of State and Assistant Secretary of Defense/Asian & Pacific Affairs Rich Armitage, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy de Leon, and former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Assistant Secretary of State/Asian & Pacific Affairs Paul Wolfowitz (also later US Ambassador to Indonesia and President of the World Bank), League Policy Advisor, US Ambassador to Thailand and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State/Asian & Pacific Affairs David Lambertson, League Policy Advisor and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State/Asian & Pacific Affairs Matt Daley, and Ambassadors Charlie Salmon, Laos, and Charlie Twining, Cambodia. (The presentations of these distinguished gentlemen, all ranking US officials, were covered by Facebook live; Richard Childress’ remarks can be found on the League’s website and are available from the League office by request.) Following a break for lunch, DPAA Director Kelly K. McKeague presented remarks about “DPAA’s Vietnam War Accounting Roadmap” and reaffirmed his pledge to maintain operational priority on achieving the fullest possible accounting for Vietnam War missing. Immediately following and well-received were brief commitments from supportive Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) who have long supported the League and US Government efforts. Carrying messages from their respective organizations were American Legion National Vice Commander John Milburn, DAV Executive Director Randy Reese, JWV Executive Director Herb Rosenbleeth, SOA Vice President/Chairman of the Joint SOA/SFA POW/MIA Committee Mike Taylor, VVA National POW/MIA Chairman Grant Coates and VFW Director of Communications & Public Affairs Joe Davis. Ambassadors Ha Kim Ngoc of Vietnam, Khamphan Anlavan of Laos and Chum Sounry of Cambodia gave very interesting, impactful remarks on “Impressions from Hanoi, Vientiane & Phnom Penh.” Presenting first, Vietnamese Ambassador Ngoc presented a series of three personal stories, including the tragic helicopter crash in April 2001 during joint field operations. The loss of seven Americans and nine Vietnamese included Ambassador Ngoc’s best friend, also a Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, serving in the Americas Bureau. Upon conclusion, Ambassador Ngoc was given a standing ovation, as were all at the end of this very special segment of the program.
The 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting Dinner and Candlelight Ceremony was made even more special this year by the remarks of then Army Chief of Staff GEN Mark Milley, now confirmed by the Senate as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS). His message made clear his full support for the accounting mission and the League's responsible role over the last 50 years in pursuing answers. Former League staff member, now DPAA Disinterment Director, Wendy Coble sang a beautiful rendition of “Climb Every Mountain.” For the first time, and in commemoration of the League’s 50th Anniversary, a Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Senior Policy Advisor Richard T. Childress, and a Lifetime Service Award was presented to Central Region Coordinator Liz Flick. These two awards are unlikely ever again to be presented. Previously, the highest League award was the Distinguished Service Award, presented only 12 times since inception. This year, that very prestigious award was presented to former Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy de Leon for his dedication to the accounting mission since 1982. Finally, the League Award was presented to BG Steven Redmann, USAF (Ret), then Deputy Chief of Staff to Army Chief of Staff General Milley. As the only Air Force officer to ever lead accounting operations, in this instance Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA), his reliable, quiet support for the League and the mission were and are recognized as notable and very meaningful. On Friday morning, the presentation by LTG Robert Ashley, USA, Director of DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), again had the audience's full, undivided attention. LTG Ashley noted his personal and professional determination to specifically contribute to League and USG efforts to account for our Vietnam War missing. He made clear his unwavering commitment to the mission and full support for DIA's team of skilled POW/MIA investigators, known as the Stony Beach Team. the only element of the US Government devoted solely to Vietnam War accounting efforts. These highly trained POW/MIA intelligence collectors briefed on current operations and approach. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood, the only senior DoD Policy Official to attend, also spoke on Friday, June 21st. Briefings were given by DPAA Deputy Director for Operations RDML Jon Kreitz, Director for Partnerships and Innovations (focused on scientific advances) Dr. Tom Holland, Deputy Director for Outreach & Communications Johnie Webb, Europe-Med and Indo-Pacific Regional Directors, COL Brian Pearl, USA, and Col Brian Peterson, USMC, Det. 2 Commander LTC Adam Points, USA, and DPAA Underwater Archaeologist Rich Wills, longtime, dedicated civilian specialist. Chairman’s Comment: There was much more to this year's 50th Anniversary commemoration, and we appreciate DPAA's having supported coverage by streaming Facebook live, as well as posting links on the DPAA website to go back and watch/listen at your convenience. Especially appreciated was DPAA Director Kelly McKeague’s pledge of five years of operational priority on Vietnam War accounting. Despite continuing dysfunction within DPAA resulting in disappointment, there is reason for cautious optimism. With sustained support from the families and our nation’s veterans, the League is determined to press for answers on Vietnam War missing. So long as Vietnam War accounting efforts remain DPAA’s operational priority, we also support investigations and recoveries on cases of unaccounted-for WWII, Korean War and Cold War personnel over disinterment and ID of remains of the known dead. We also recognize that DPAA is pursuing numbers to satisfy Congressional expectations and the least expensive, most effective means to raise the ID count is disinterment of Korean War and WWII personnel, known dead and buried in US cemeteries around the world, and not individually identified. DPAA’s primary mission is to account as fully as possible for missing US personnel, not “just” mortuary duties to disinter and identify the known dead, meaningful as that is to their families. I wish all of you could have been with us; we've come a long, long way, yet we have much to do to meet ongoing challenges. Your support and direct engagement, especially through social media, are strongly encouraged. This year’s annual 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. Members who had not attended in years didn’t want to miss this 50th Anniversary commemoration!
BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTION, 2019-2021: The League’s bylaws require an election every other year, and 2019 was an election year. Results were announced at the 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting. Re-elected were all sitting members of the Board – Pam Cain, Karoni Forrester, Ann Mills-Griffiths, Sue Scott, Mark Stephensen and Cindy Stonebraker – with the exception of Eldon Robinson, MIA brother, who was again serving as League Treasurer. Sadly, Eldon fell critically ill, was unable to stand for re-election and passed away just before the 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting. CA State Coordinator Bruce Hallberg, having been elected, was selected by the Board to serve as Treasurer. Selected to again serve in the positions of Chairman/CEO, Vice Chairman and Secretary were Ann Mills-Griffiths, Mark Stephensen and Cindy Stonebraker, respectively. Sadly, Cindy recently resigned due to family obligations, and MIA Son Joseph Stuart, the candidate with the next highest votes, assumed her Board position. Pam Cain was then elected as Secretary of the Board for 2019-2021, a position she previously held some years ago. We are grateful to her for stepping up to serve again.
HOPE FOR TALKS TO RESUME ON KOREAN WAR REMAINS RECOVERIES. Though there still is no clarity on when/whether agreement to resume remains recovery operations in North Korea will occur, there is ongoing speculation, as well as effort. The subject is reportedly high on the agenda, as it is something both leaders agree should be pursued on a separate humanitarian basis, regardless of political and/or policy differences. In this instance, no news is NOT good news, and it is hoped that working level talks to sort through specific issues related to in-country cooperation can resume in the spring, once the frozen ground allows such field recoveries. IDENTIFICATION STATISTICS: It should also be noted that as many as 35 IDs have been made on remains that came out of North Korea in the 55 flag-draped transfer cases. In addition, DPAA leaders stated publicly that the DNA on as many as 150 US personnel, plus approximately 100 indigenous personnel, may be represented by remains that were turned over in the 55 transfer cases. With the very high percentage of DNA reference samples that Korean War families have ensured are available, the count of IDs of Korean War KIA/BNRs, both disinterred from US cemeteries and from the earlier unilateral DPRK turnover of the K-208 (representing as many as 500-600 individuals), the prospect is high for many more Korean War personnel being ID’d and returned to their families for honorable burial in the near term. Korean War IDs for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) reached 73. The WWII total is even higher, standing at 140 for FY19. Only 5 Vietnam War personnel were accounted for during that same time, for a total of 218 IDs announced by DPAA for FY19, a record for the DPAA Lab.
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, all very relevant to Vietnam War accounting and, for those interested in better understanding the broader policy implications and opportunities, the full report would be of significant interest.
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 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: It is very encouraging to see the POW/MIA accounting mission integrated into US policy priorities by release of this significant document during 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 the accounting effort to the United States, 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 EFFORTS!
DPAA-HOSTED FAMILY UPDATES: DPAA-hosted Family Member Updates (FMUs) are no longer restricted solely to family members. Responsible Veteran Service Organization (VSO) representatives can now be included, as are League and other Non-Government Organization (NGO) officials. Following are upcoming dates and locations: San Juan, Puerto Rico, November 2nd; Las Vegas, NV, January 25th; Portland, OR, February 22nd; Miami, FL, March 21st; Little Rock, AR, April 18th; Chicago, IL, May 16th, Washington, DC, *June 24-27th; Washington, DC, **August 6-7th; and Colorado Springs, CO, September 12th.
*Held during the League’s 51st Annual Meeting **DPAA-hosted Korean War-Cold War Annual Government Briefings
US-RUSSIA JOINT COMMISSION (USRJC) ON POW/MIA AFFAIRS: The anticipated Plenary Session that originally was scheduled for later this year has been postponed at the request of the Russian Side, though Korean War and Cold War Working Group talks will be held later this year. The full Plenary Session is tentatively scheduled to take place in the Spring, in Moscow. By that time, it is anticipated that the Russian side of the USRJC will be fully appointed, authorized by President Putin and in place.
In the interim, the Vietnam War Working Group met during the League’s 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting. The abbreviated session was co-chaired by US Chairman and DPAA Director Kelly McKeague and Colonel Eduard Paderin, Chief Archival Service, Russian Ministry of Defense. More recently, Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD) Senior Research Analyst supporting the Vietnam War Working Group Svetlana Shevchenko visited Ukraine to pursue relevant interviews with veterans who served during the Vietnam War as Air Defense advisors to and trainers of Vietnamese pilots. It was the Air Defense Museum that the USRJC visited during the Plenum in Moscow in 2017, and their archives related to communications emanating from their early Vietnam War service are of intense interest.
CHAIRMAN’S COMMENTARY: VIETNAM WAR-RELATED PERSPECTIVE: The numbers still missing and unaccounted-for in Vietnam War-related countries are spelled out on page one of this Newsletter. Beyond that, little specific information is available, other than that gleaned from a chart distributed at the DPAA-hosted Annual Government Briefings for the Korean War-Cold War families.
In relative terms, it is good news! The number of Vietnam War personnel assessed as “unrecoverable” has dropped from roughly 700-800 at the end of the war in 1975 to now under 500. This may be due to increased DPAA technical capacity to more rapidly screen and evaluate digitized e-Case Files. Reportedly, these contain initial case-related information and all subsequent information that relates or may relate to each missing individual, as required by law and successive Presidential Directives since they began post-war during the Reagan Administration.
As to specifics, useful information is seldom regularly or transparently distributed to the League, and presumably others, and is increasingly hard to discern, even if regularly checking the DPAA website. Statistical information that used to be readily available is now restricted, often under the ever-increasing requirement to ensure the safety and security of personnel deployed to undertake field investigations, research and recoveries.
As applied to advance release of field activities, the caution is understandable, but hard to defend after operations begin in Vietnam War-related counterpart countries. In Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, media attention is often drawn to POW/MIA accounting operations that proceed as separate, humanitarian endeavors, despite policy and political differences.
That is as it should be and as was established by President Reagan when he came into office in 1981, determined to pursue POW/MIA accounting as a matter of highest national priority. This pattern formed the basis on which the US and Vietnam moved forward in a spirit of humanitarian reciprocity that has served the mission well. The Trump Administration decided to utilize this same “separate, humanitarian” concept for the Singapore Summit in August, 2018.
NOTICE: THOSE OF YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA (FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, SNAPCHAT, LINKEDIN) CAN HAVE MAJOR IMPACT ON ACHIEVING ACCOUNTING OBJECTIVES! CHECK LEAGUE SOCIAL MEDIA POSTINGS AND WEBSITE, THEN MESSAGE ALL MEDIA OUTLETS TO COVER POW/MIA ACCOUNTING EFFORTS AND RESULTS, RESPONSIBLY!
The League is a tax-exempt, 501(c)3 humanitarian organization (IRS 23-7071242), eligible for donations through the Combined Federal Campaign, CFC #10218
AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: Although no formal DPAA announcement has yet been published, statistical data on the DPAA website, dated 1/15/19, reported 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, PA, 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, and the formal release is expected soon. Before that, no changes in the Vietnam War statistics had been posted since October 17th when DPAA posted the names of two Vietnam War personnel now accounted for, Ritter, noted above, and LT Richard C. Lannom, USNR, TN, listed MIA on 3/1/68, NVN, recovered 12/13/17 and ID’d on 9/25/18.
The number still missing (POW/MIA) and otherwise unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR) from the Vietnam War is now 1,590. Of that number, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia or Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,247 (VN-452, VS-795); Laos-288; 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 993. A breakdown by country of these 993 Americans is: Vietnam – 671, Laos – 277, 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 1,056. 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 285 have been accounted for from Laos, 726 from Vietnam, 42 from Cambodia and 3 from the PRC.
CHAIRMAN’S COMMENTS: DEFENSE SECRETARY MATTIS’ RESIGNATION: Thanks to the President’s support for our Armed Forces and Veterans, sustained priority on the accounting mission is assumed, but the League will seek confirmation of continuing, even expanded priority, focus and attention to pursuing answers. At this time, while it is difficult to imagine “replacing” General Mattis, the accounting mission has weathered political ups and downs for nearly five decades. The League has no intention of abandoning the accounting mission precisely when the Vietnam War end-game can actually be visualized. I strongly urge reinforcing your own determination to contribute more toward accomplishing our accounting objectives, whether monetarily or by volunteering to more actively engage in building public interest and support.
The quest for answers to end the uncertainty of Vietnam War POW/MIA families has vastly expanded. It now includes remains recoveries from the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK), the People’s Republic of China (PRC), countries of the former Soviet Union (USSR) and worldwide efforts to recover many thousands killed during the Cold War, Korean War and World War II buried as unknowns in US cemeteries in Europe, Asia and here in the US, such as the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, HI.
The differences in pursuing answers in these varied countries are complex and demanding, but standing behind those who serve our country has finally resumed the national priority President Reagan established in the early 1980s. It is now our responsibility to ensure Members of Congress, on a bipartisan basis, understand the need to provide sufficient funding, personnel and resources to accomplish the expanded mission outlined above. We must also ensure the Trump Administration recognizes the need to return home as many of these UNRETURNED VETERANS as possible. US/VIETNAM COOPERATION: Joint investigations and recoveries resume later this month, and the pace and scope of cooperation continues to expand. In early December, another repatriation ceremony was held in Da Nang to conclude the latest Joint Field Activity (JFA), consisting of several investigation and recovery teams, culminating with a US-Vietnam commemoration to celebrate 30 years of sustained joint field operations.
Chairman’s Comment: The League deeply appreciates efforts by the government and people of Vietnam to work constructively and effectively to achieve the fullest possible accounting. Vietnam’s initial on-again, off-again cooperation has improved and steadily expanded over the last 40 years and can be described today as forward leaning, proposing initiatives and providing increased opportunities for success. In recent Vietnam News Agency (VNA) coverage of Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia border talks in Kon Tum, the article noted pledges of continued friendship and cooperation among the three countries and specifically noted their support of the Kon Tum Province K53 Group’s success in locating and repatriating “1,259 sets of remains of soldiers, including 872 in Laos and the remaining in Cambodia.” Such cooperative remains recoveries have regularized over the years, prompted by pressure from local Vietnamese.
US/CAMBODIAN COOPERATION: On October 12th, long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen announced in a letter to Washington State Senator Doug Erickson and Washington State Representative Vincent Buys that he has lifted the suspension on POW/MIA cooperation with DPAA, despite the ongoing US sanctions. Throughout the suspension, DIA’s Stony Beach Cambodia specialist, Eric Phillips, continued to conduct case investigations.
Chairman’s Comment: The League is grateful that Prime Minister Hun Sen has lifted the suspension, and looks forward to resuming longstanding cooperation with his full support for this important humanitarian issue. We are also grateful to Senator Ericksen and Representative Buys for their work in advocating resumption of POW/MIA operations in Cambodia. Coming just in time for the dry season, it means that DPAA will be able to proceed with their important field operations working alongside their thoughtful, capable Cambodian counterparts.
US/LAO COOPERATION: DPAA and SB personnel are now undertaking field investigation and recovery operations on cases of US personnel missing in Laos. Field recoveries in northern Laos also concluded with a repatriation ceremony conducted at the Luang Prabang Airport on August 14th. US-Lao consultations were held September 7th in Vientiane, led by RDML Kreitz. Significant agreement was reached to expand support for year-round DIA/SB investigations, and Joint Field Activities (JFAs) resumed, including successful completion of the Air America site in NW Laos as noted earlier.
Chairman’s Comment: The League looks forward to positive results from these efforts, recognizing and applauding several significant developments in POW/MIA cooperation that the Lao leadership has authorized in recent months. These include base-camping at remote locations, increasing the number of US participants on a case-by-case basis, and extensions of time on field recovery sites when justified.
Despite often difficult conditions, including advance destruction of unexploded ordnance, conditions for humanitarian cooperation to account for US personnel continue to improve, for which all Americans are grateful. Hopefully, further Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sanctions against Laos for failing to accept Lao nationals who long ago immigrated to the US, were since convicted of criminal acts and are now scheduled for legal deportation back to Laos, will not negatively impact humanitarian POW/MIA cooperation.
US-RUSSIA JOINT COMMISSION (USRJC) ON POW/MIA AFFAIRS HOLDS PLENUM: US Chairman General “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), and Russian Co-Chairman General Colonel Vostrotin agreed to hold Plenary talks on Wednesday, November 28th, in Washington, DC at the National Archives. Several commemorative and social events took place over a three-day period, November 27-29th, including the customary break-out sessions focused separately on the Vietnam War, Korean War/Cold War and World War II. DPAA Director Kelly McKeague again chaired the Vietnam War Working Group. Prior to the Plenum, VFW Executive Director Bob Wallace and League Chairman of the Board/CEO Ann Mills-Griffiths both accepted invitations to serve as Special Advisors to the USRJC.
50th ANNIVERSARY ANNUAL MEETING TO BE HELD JUNE 19-23, 2019: This year’s annual meeting marks five decades of League efforts to account as fully as possible for America’s Vietnam War POW/MIAs and other unreturned veterans. Don’t miss being a part of this historic event, June 19-23, 2019. In addition to the always outstanding and informative speakers, panel discussions, and presentations, special guests and special events are being planned, including a Welcome Reception Wednesday evening, June 19th, during Registration. Stay tuned for more details!
The League’s central role is recognized as key to having sustained priority, established by President Reagan when he assumed office in 1982, and expanding the mission to include efforts to recover and identify Americans unreturned from wars and conflicts back to WWII. In addition to the brief Remembrance Ceremony honoring those accounted for since the 49th Annual Meeting, Opening Session will feature the League’s five decades of commitment and dedication to standing behind those who serve our country. Prominent officials from years past – both US and foreign – are expected to participate in a multimedia retrospective.
The 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting Dinner will be held Thursday evening, June 20th, 7:00 – 9:00 PM. Invited guests will include senior US and foreign officials and Ambassadors from nations whose humanitarian cooperation with the US is necessary to accomplish the accounting mission. Seating will be limited, so early registration is encouraged to ensure seats are available. The dinner will be preceded by a no-host reception from 6:00 – 7:00 PM.
Business Sessions to update League members and guests will include senior US policy officials from the Departments of State and Defense, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the US-Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) on POW/MIA Affairs, as well as accounting-specific briefings. As is customary and necessary in terms of initiatives now underway, there will be topic-focused briefings from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) Director and Deputy Director, Directors for Policy & Plans, Outreach & Communications, Regional Operations, Partnerships & Innovations, scientific advances being applied to recoveries and identifications, etc. These sessions will take place Thursday and Friday, plus a Q&A Session on Saturday morning, followed by a League Business Session on Saturday afternoon, prior to a League-hosted Farewell Reception that evening.
Registration: League Members – Family & Associate – should register early to ensure available seating for the dinner. The cost for League Members to register for the 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting & Dinner is $100 per person. Those registered may purchase guest dinner tickets for $55 per person. Non-League member registration to attend only the 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting sessions is $65 per person.
Reservations at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel: A block of rooms has been contracted at a reduced rate of $158.00 per room, per night, plus applicable taxes; there is an additional charge of $20 per night per added person in a room. Both Double Queen and King Rooms are available, on a first come, first served basis. A larger than usual attendance is anticipated, so reservations should be made ASAP, meaning on receipt of this notice. Save the dates and book your room at the Hilton Crystal CityHotel, 2399 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, Virginia 22202. The group code is MIA. Book online through the Hilton Link:
You can also call 703-418-6800 or 800-774-1500 to make reservations. Though the League room block has been increased, attendance is expected to be high, so book early, or no later than May 16th, to reserve your room(s).
BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTION, 2019-2021: The League’s bylaws require an election every other year, and 2019 is an election year. All candidates must be dues-current and may contact the League office to request an application or download one from the League website, www.pow-miafamilies.org. Applications must be completed, signed, scanned and sent by USPS to League Administrator Leslie Swindells at the League’s national office (address on the letterhead) or emailed to email@example.com, by April 5, 2019.
Chairman’s Comment: Dedicated League Family Members are asked to consider serving on the League’s elected Board of Directors. If you take seriously our shared quest for answers and have the good health, knowledge of the mission, financial means, time, and willingness to represent all of our missing men and their families, as well as your own missing loved one, please seriously consider placing your name on the ballot. At present, and for the last few years, the League has paid the cost of travel and accommodations for board members to attend quarterly meetings, though some voluntarily paid their own expenses as was required for many years. Costs vary, depending on location, and meals are not reimbursed nor is per diem paid as is standard for most such voluntary service by individuals. Continued payment of such expenses will be dependent on a decision by the board majority after assuming office following the 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting.
DPAA-HOSTED FAMILY UPDATES: DPAA-hosted Family Member Updates (FMUs) are no longer restricted solely to family members. Responsible Veteran Service Organization (VSO) representatives can now be included, as are League and other Non-Government Organization (NGO) officials. Following are upcoming dates and locations for 2019: January 26th. Birmingham, AL February 23rd, San Jose, CA; March 23rd, San Antonio, TX; April 20th, Salt Lake City, UT, and May 18th, Omaha, NE.
The League is a tax-exempt, 501(c)3 humanitarian organization (IRS 23-7071242), eligible for donations through the Combined Federal Campaign, CFC #10218
AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: DPAA announced on 8/24/18 that CDR James B. Mills, USNR, CA, was accounted for on 8/20/18. Listed as MIA on 9/21/66, NVN, his remains were recovered in June, 2018. Earlier in the month, DPAA announced that Col Richard A. Kibbey, USAF, NY, was accounted for on 8/6/18. Listed as MIA on 2/6/67, NVN, his remains were noted as returned on April 13, 2017. The accounting for CDR Mills and Col Kibbey reduces the number still missing from the Vietnam War to 1,594. Prior to that, and dated 7/17/18, DPAA released the name of Col Frederick M. Mellor, USAF, listed as MIA, NVN, on 8/13/65. Prior to this posting, the most recent Vietnam War accounted-related release was on May 31st when DPAA posted the name of LCDR Larry R. Kilpatrick, USN, of GA, though he actually was accounted for on May 18th. Listed as MIA on 6/18/72 in North Vietnam, remains were recovered 12/14/2015. The number still missing (POW/MIA) and otherwise unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR) from the Vietnam War is 1,594. Of that number, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia or Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,248 (VN-453, VS-795); Laos-291; 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 989. A breakdown by country of these 989 Americans is: Vietnam – 670, Laos – 274, 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 1,052. 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 282 have been accounted for from Laos, 72 from Vietnam, 42 from Cambodia and 3 from the PRC.
NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY: Secretary of Defense General James N. Mattis, USMC (Ret), delivered inspirational, encouraging messages that signal solid US commitment to the accounting mission. In part he stated: “As we honored those who returned after enduring our enemy’s worst, we also remember those still missing in action, those still awaiting their return. And we thank their families for their unrelenting courage and faith, as we strive to bring them home – some of these families honor us by their presence here today.
We are grateful to the men and women of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Veteran Service Organizations and other advocates for their fierce resolve and tireless commitment to realize this mission. You give today’s warriors great courage and confidence as they launch into harm’s way knowing that no matter what destiny has in store for them, they will never be forgotten and that their fellow citizens will go to the ends of the earth to bring them home.” As examples of family members present, the Secretary stated…..“the family of Army Sergeant Edward Saunders, a soldier in the 2nd Infantry Division who was killed following his capture in Korea by Chinese forces in 1951. Also the family of CDR James. B. Mills, a radar intercept officer shot down over the Gulf of Tonkin in 1966. His sister, Ann Mills-Griffiths, has carried his memory in her advocacy for this community ever since. And we are so grateful that he’s home now. In August, your community and our entire military family received an infusion of hope in the repatriation and homecoming to Hawaii of 55 cases of remains from the Korean War. President Trump made this a priority in his meetings with Chairman Kim. Because of it, we can welcome home two long lost heroes, Army Private First Class William H. Jones of Nash County, North Carolina and Army Master Sergeant Charles H. McDaniel of Vernon, Indiana. Two beloved sons of America, finally home on our soil. Our POWs, our missing in action, their families, they have met the most terrible challenges undeterred, with the highest fortitude, honoring a nation that loves them for what they call out in each of us. And for that, we owe an irredeemable debt of gratitude.”
Chairman’s Comment: The League especially welcomes the strong commitments made by Secretary of Defense Mattis, recognizing the importance to the Trump Administration’s interagency community. We also recognize the importance of DoD’s continued support for longstanding US policy to pursue accounting objectives on a separate humanitarian basis, despite political or policy issues that divide the US and counterpart countries in which cooperation is imperative. The League was very pleased to learn that National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies were held in Bangkok, Hanoi and Vientiane. This year’s POW/MIA Recognition Day undoubtedly hit an all-time record for the number of events held throughout the country and on military installations and some US Embassies around the world. The significant expansion is due to many factors, including social media, but was heightened by the Singapore Summit in June and agreement reached between President Trump and Chairman Kim to repatriate remains of US personnel killed during the Korean War.
BREAKTHROUGH ON AMERICANS UNACCOUNTED-FOR FROM KOREAN WAR: In a formal statement signed by President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un, the United States and North Korea agreed to the recovery and repatriation of Americans still unaccounted-for from the Korean War. This stunning agreement, a potential win-win-win scenario, affords the affected families from the US, South Korea and Japan, in particular, an unprecedented opportunity to obtain long awaited answers.
As pledged, on July 27th, North Korea turned over 55 transfer cases, draped with the United Nations flag under which they served during the Korean War. Though the actual number of remains is as yet unknown, those remains are being carefully analyzed at DPAA’s laboratories in an effort to establish individual identification. In fact, the first two identifications were announced: Army PFC William H. Jones and MSGT Charles H. McDaniel.
On September 27th, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, a formal ceremony was conducted to repatriate remains of some 64 Republic of Korea soldiers who were killed during the Korean War and recovered by the US from 1996 – 2005 in the DPRK. Scientists from both South Korea and the US worked together to ensure that the remains to be repatriated were those serving the Republic of Korea during the Korean War.
Chairman’s Comment: Having sought the fullest possible accounting for decades, the League and all POW/MIA families welcome this encouraging development. The League can take pride in having led the way and laid the groundwork for all that is evolving nearly 50 years since officially formed on May 28, 1970.
In the early 1980s, the Reagan Administration took the initiative to raise intelligence priorities and obtain the evidence that is now publicly known and forms the basis for accounting expectations, not only for the Vietnam War, but also the Korean War. As the demand for expanding the accounting mission raised to a higher level in the early 1990s and the Korean War/Cold War POW/MIA families began organizing, the League fully supported efforts to recover and account for US personnel who didn’t return from wars and conflicts further past, so long as the priority on Vietnam War POW/MIAs was not adversely impacted.
DPAA Director Kelly McKeague has pledged to sustain operational priority on accounting for as many as possible of our 1,594 unreturned veterans from the Vietnam War. The reality is that uncertainty is greater for Vietnam War families, and there are more immediate family members impacted by US accounting efforts. Worldwide efforts are ongoing, both operationally and from disinterring remains known to be those of American, buried as unknowns in US cemeteries around the world. Though known killed in action decades ago, reactions by relatives when recovered and identified today are evident and compelling. Congress just approved additional funding for DPAA to expand operations into North Korea, and negotiations to accomplish that objective are ongoing.
US/VIETNAM COOPERATION: DPAA and Defense Intelligence Agency/Stony Beach (DIA/SB) field operations resumed in mid-August and concluded recently with another repatriation ceremony in Da Nang. US-SRV Technical Talks took place September 10th in Hanoi, led by DPAA Deputy Director Rear Admiral Jon Kreitz. As anticipated, Vietnam was responsive to US requests, other than a couple that are under discussion, and the pace and scope of cooperation continues to expand.
Chairman’s Comment: The League deeply appreciates efforts by the government and people of Vietnam to work constructively and effectively to achieve the fullest possible accounting. Vietnam’s initially sporadic and frustrating cooperation has expanded steadily over the last 40 years and today can be described as forward leaning, proposing initiatives, and providing increased opportunities for success.
US/LAO COOPERATION: As field operations ended in Vietnam, DPAA and SB personnel began investigation and recovery operations on several cases of US personnel missing in Laos. These field recoveries also concluded with a repatriation ceremony conducted at the Luang Prabang Airport on August 14th. US-Lao consultations were held September 7th in Vientiane, led by the Deputy Director. Significant agreement was reached to expand support for year-round DIA/SB investigations, and Joint Field Activities (JFAs) are scheduled to resume soon.
Chairman’s Comment: The League looks forward to positive results from these efforts, recognizing and applauding several significant developments in POW/MIA cooperation that the Lao leadership has authorized in recent months. These include base-camping at remote locations, increasing the number of US participants on a case-by-case basis, and extensions of time on field recovery sites when justified. Despite often difficult conditions, including advance destruction of unexploded ordnance, conditions for humanitarian cooperation to account for US personnel continue to improve, for which all Americans are grateful. Hopefully, further Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sanctions against Laos for failing to accept Lao nationals who long ago immigrated to the US, were since convicted of criminal acts and are now scheduled for legal deportation back to Laos, will not negatively impact humanitarian POW/MIA cooperation.
Regarding Cambodia: In Cambodia, long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a “temporary suspension” to POW/MIA cooperation with DPAA when DHS sanctions were levied against Cambodia several months ago and has since declined appeals to lift the suspension. All are hoping, now that his predictable re-election has occurred, the Prime Minister will lift the unwarranted suspension; however, there was nonstop anti-US rhetoric through run-up to the election. Also, the Prime Minister has declared the suspension will end when the sanctions do. In the interim, DIA’s Stony Beach Cambodia specialist continues to work constructively on the mission.
PRESIDENT’S STRONG MEMORIAL DAY COMMITMENT TO THE ACCOUNTING MISSION: The League was very pleased to see the President include language strongly committing the United States to “remember the American servicemen and women who remain missing from wars and conflicts fought over the past century. We will never stop searching for them…and whenever possible, we will bring them home. We pledge to remember not just on Memorial Day. We will always remember them. We will remember them every day.”
DPAA BUDGET UPDATE FOR FISCAL YEAR (FY) 2018 & 2019 (Verbatim from DPAA): FY18: On March 23, 2018, the President signed the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act which funded the Federal government through 30 September 2018. The legislation provided DPAA with $146.3M to fully fund the agency over and above their original budget request. Specifically, DPAA received a $10M increase for "Southeast Asia operations" (Vietnam War operations more accurately) and $5M for partnerships. As a result of the recent return of remains from the Korean War, DPAA has requested additional funding from DoD to pay for unforecast expenses related to the repatriation and analysis of the remains. Vietnam War-related operations continue to be the agency's number one priority and will continue as planned and scheduled.
The Federal government's FY19 appropriations request is making its way through the congressional review and approval process. In June, the House of Representatives passed a Defense Appropriations Act, which is only one step in a multiple step process. In addition, the House Appropriations Committee added $10M for "SEA operations" (Vietnam War more accurately), while the House also added $20M in amendments for Korean War operations. In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee passed their version of the Defense Appropriations Act; however, there were no adds for the POW/MIA mission. The Senate still must vote on the bill. Although none of these additions to DPAA's budget have been appropriated, if DPAA actually receives its full budget request plus the current House Funding additions, the agency could potentially receive $160.696M for FY19.
HOUSE PASSES H. RES. 129: On February 12, 2018, the House of Representatives passed this important resolution by a vote of 411 – 0, sending a unified message to the American people – including our Armed Forces serving today and our veterans, as well as foreign nations. Introduced by Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX), former Vietnam War POW, on February 14, 2017, his strong message on the Floor of the House occurred almost precisely 45 years after he and his fellow POWs were released from many years of captivity. Passage of this resolution reflected true bipartisan, non-political support for the humanitarian accounting mission. It is the US Senate’s turn to act. The identical measure was simultaneously introduced in the US Senate by the late Senator John S. McCain (R-AZ) as S. RES. 61. Senate passage would further reinforce our country’s support for achieving the fullest possible accounting for those who serve our nation – past, present and future. To date, there are only 13 co-sponsors in the Senate, the most recent being September 25th.
CONTACT YOUR SENATORS TO URGE IMMEDIATE PASSAGE OF S. RES. 61
On September 7, 2018, Representatives Mike Bishop (R-MI), Timothy Walz (D-MN), and Sam Johnson (R-TX) introduced House Resolution 6734, the Full Military Honors Act of 2018 to allow enlisted Medal of Honor recipients and Prisoners of War (POW) who are eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery to receive a full military honors burial. Currently, full military honors are reserved for commissioned officers, warrant officers, and senior non-commissioned officers. There are now 61 co-sponsors, the most recent being September 27, 2018.
CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES TO URGE PASSAGE OF H. RES. 6734.
49th ANNUAL MEETING SUMMARY REPORT: The Opening Session on June 21st at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel opened with customary formalities, including Presentation of Colors by the Sergeants-at-Arms Committee Chairman, Les Brown, Elko, assisted by committee members from Boise and Pocatello, Idaho. The inspirational In Memory Ceremony, during which the names of 10 Americans accounted for since the 48th Annual Meeting in 2017 were read aloud, followed by guest soloist Wendy Coble (previously worked for the League, now with DPAA) singing “On Eagle’s Wings.”Mr. Michael Cassata, Executive Director of the POW/MIA Memorial at Cecil Field, Jacksonville, Florida, followed with a brief presentation on his nonprofit organization’s plans to create the National POW/MIA Memorial at former NAS Cecil Field. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian & Pacific Security Affairs Mr. Randall Shriver represented the Secretary of Defense, bringing a message of full support for the accounting mission and for DPAA Director Kelly McKeague’s leadership in guiding renewed efforts to achieve results. Mr. W. Patrick Murphy, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Asian & Pacific Affairs, outlined US policy in support of achieving US accounting objectives, focused on Vietnam War-related countries, but also regional factors that apply. Richard T. Childress, Director of Asian Affairs on the National Security Council (NSC) staff (1981-89), a recognized Southeast Asian specialist, a retired US Army Colonel and in-country Vietnam Veteran, again brought a meaningful, attention-raising message as he has each year since 1982. As the chief architect of policy developed by the POW/MIA Interagency Group, approved at the highest level, and pursued as a matter of highest national priority during President Ronald Reagan’s two terms, he has served as League Senior Policy Adviser since his retirement in February, 1989, and has participated in all League Delegations to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand since 1999. Entitled “Melting Icebergs,” his remarks outlined the positive changes now taking place in DPAA, thanks to Mr. Kelly McKeague who took the lead in September, 2017. These changes include increased transparency within DPAA and improved communication and partnership between the League and DPAA. Bottom line, Mr. Childress’ remarks summarized his rationale underscoring the positive attitude that carried throughout this year’s annual meeting. (A full copy of his remarks is posted on the League’s website, www.pow-miafamilies.org or can be requested by email or phone call to the League office.) Chairman of the Board/CEO Ann Mills Griffiths’ remarks addressed diverse aspects of the accounting process, a virtual read-out on the positives and negatives, stressing the need for patience as the new DPAA Director considers alternatives moving forward. She expressed the need for DPAA to continue to increase the pace and scope of operations to maximize the relatively short time remaining to prioritize the Vietnam War accounting efforts. She noted the urgency of finding and interviewing sources before it is too late, fully integrating DIA’s special Stony Beach Team to augment the investigation efforts, as well as obtaining answers while immediate family members are still living and seeking answers to end their uncertainty. She also noted the confidence she has and the hope we all share that, when needed, reinforcement by the highest levels of the Trump Administration will step in to reinforce DPAA’s efforts with all counterpart countries, but in particular with the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation, neither of which are providing the cooperation long sought. (No copies are available as Mills-Griffiths’ remarks were from notes.) The morning session closed with a presentation by MG James Jackson, USA (Ret), Director of the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commission. He discussed the Commission’s charter to thank and honor Vietnam War Veterans and their families, plus showed a short video and presented special pins to families afterward. The afternoon session featured up-to-date presentations by senior DPAA officials. Director Kelly McKeague, Policy & Plans Director John Hamilton, Partnership & Innovation Director Dr. Tom Holland, Outreach & Communications Director Todd Livick and Outreach & Communications Deputy Director Johnie Webb outlined DPAA’s policy approach and operational direction, focused primarily on Vietnam War areas of interest. (All DPAA presentations are posted on the League website or can be obtained from the League office.) The afternoon session was highlighted by participation of Mr. Sergey Koshelev, Deputy Chief of Mission in the Embassy of the Russian Federation. He was joined by USRJC Co-Chairman Gen Robert “Doc” Fogelsong, USAF (Ret). The two men focused on the bilateral agreement between the US and Russia to work together on the POW/MIA issue despite the ongoing tensions between the two countries. DPAA’s Director of the Europe–Mediterranean Directorate COL Christopher Forbes, USA reported on the 21st USRJC Plenum in Moscow, Russia, and the more recent USRJC Vietnam War Working Group Technical Talks in Hawaii. The afternoon session was concluded with a meaningful presentation from Board Secretary Cindy Stonebraker and SOA/SFA POW/MIA Committee Chairman and LTC Mike Taylor, USA/SF (Ret). The two participated in the League and SOA/SFA parallel delegations to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand in January of this year. They each noted the impact that their experiences during the visit had on them. Ms. Stonebraker, MIA daughter of Col Kenneth Stonebraker, USAF, listed MIA in NVN on 10-28-68, was visiting the region for the first time; LTC Taylor was returning for the first time since serving five tours (1968-72) during the Vietnam War. The 49th Annual Meeting Dinner and Candlelight Ceremony that evening was enjoyable, entertaining and inspirational. Following the Chairman’s welcome, the Military District of Washington (MDW) Armed Forces Color Guard presented the Colors, and the National Anthem and the Service Medley were played. DPAA Command Master Sergeant Michael E. Swam, USA, Senior Enlisted Leader, read the Missing Man Table Honors Ceremony. US Army Chief of Chaplains Father (MG) Paul Hurley gave the invocation and later, to his great surprise, was presented a League Award for extraordinary support of the League. Long time League coordinator and year-round volunteer and annual meeting assistant chairman Betty Bartels Murphy was presented the League Distinguished Service Award, following in the footsteps of her late mother, Betty Adair Bartels. While introducing special guests, the Chairman called on RADM Kevin Sweeney, Secretary of Defense Mattis’ Chief of Staff, who pledged the Secretary’s full support, including hosting this year’s National POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremony, a pledge that was just realized. Concluding the evening was the Candlelight Ceremony honoring Vietnam War POW/MIAs, with the Roll Call by LTC Taylor, and Ms. Wendy Coble singing a beautiful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” before leading all in “God Bless America.” Friday, June 22nd, was another full day of government briefings beginning with the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) LTG Robert Ashley, Jr., USA. General Ashley’s remarks were so moving you could have heard a pin drop. He outlined DIA’s commitment to supporting Stony Beach and working to expand operations into Vietnam. For the rest of the day, we heard from specialists dealing with all aspects of in-country activities, from investigations, including Stony Beach Team Members from (DIA) and larger-scale DPAA Investigation Teams (ITs), to surveys, recoveries, underwater recoveries (both US and Vietnamese), and processes utilized within the three separate DPAA Laboratories in Hawaii, Nebraska, and Ohio. Those gathered also listened attentively to presentations on specific assets that can be incorporated to augment field operations, such as a presentation from CWO Christopher Timothy, USN, with the Mobile Diving & Salvage Unit (MDSU), members of which have specialized training uniquely qualifying them to support underwater recovery efforts. Dr. Tim McMahon, Director of the Department of Defense DNA Registry & Armed Forces DNA Laboratory, gave an important presentation on the importance of DNA in identification efforts. He gave an in depth explanation for how even small amounts of DNA can be used to link missing servicemen to their families. The day was closed out with a DPAA-hosted visit to the National Museum of the US Marine Corps. Participants of the annual meeting received a police escort from the Hilton Crystal City Hotel to the museum in Triangle, Virginia. The visit opened with a short reception featuring remarks from DPAA Director Kelly McKeague and LtGen George Christmas, USMC (Ret), former President and CEO of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation. The guests were then given the opportunity to tour the museum. Saturday, June 23, marked the final day of the annual meeting and featured a three-hour Question & Answer (Q&A) Session allowing participants to pose questions that may have arisen as a result of presentations by individuals over the course of the annual meeting. The closing League Business Session provided family members with the status of the League’s day-to-day operations, financial report for the past year, the archival/digitization project, and a report on the League educational foundation concept. The session closed with consideration and passage of resolutions. Resolutions Passed at the 49th Annual Meeting Business Session: 1) Whereas, the POW/MIA Families, second only to our missing loved ones, are the primary stakeholders in DPAA’s efforts, therefore, be it RESOLVED by the National League of POW/MIA Families, convened during the Business Session of our 49th Annual Meeting on June 23, 2018, fully supports the priority, direction, vision, transparency and partnership that DPAA is committed to pursuing under the leadership of Director Kelly K. McKeague, and looks forward to continued creativity in seeking solutions to obtain the fullest possible accounting for America’s 1,597 personnel still missing from the Vietnam War. 2) Whereas, the POW/MIA Families, second only to our missing loved ones, are the primary stakeholders in DPAA’s efforts, therefore, be it RESOLVED by the National League of POW/MIA Families, convened during the Business Session of our 49th Annual Meeting on June 23, 2018, welcomes and commends the stated commitments of DIA Director LTG Robert Ashley, USA, to fully support, sustain and work to increase the capacity of DIA’s Stony Beach Team of specialists, including his commitment to the long-sought permanent stationing in Hanoi, Vietnam, of a Stony Beach Vietnam specialist, as well as efforts to expand and fully integrate the Stony Beach Team into the broader US Government accounting effort. 3) Whereas, the POW/MIA Families, second only to our missing loved ones, are the primary stakeholders in DPAA’s efforts, therefore, be it RESOLVED by the National League of POW/MIA Families, convened during the Business Session of our 49th Annual Meeting on June 23, 2018, that the League welcomes Director Kelly McKeague’s commitment to restore and improve the process of reporting to the NOK information that pertains or may pertain to missing US personnel and looks forward to adoption and implementation of such a process that includes a means of tracking the incoming information through the various processes for expeditious delivery by the Service Casualty Officers to the NOK. 4) Whereas, the POW/MIA Families, second only to our missing loved ones, are the primary stakeholders in DPAA’s efforts, therefore, be it RESOLVED by the National League of POW/MIA Families, convened during the Business Session of our 49th Annual Meeting on June 23, 2018, that the League appreciates DPAA’s commitment to notify all federal departments and agencies, and repositories of FOIAs filed at these respective agencies and elements, of the necessity to ensure that DPAA is notified and provided copies of all such information for integration into the individual case files, as well as insure such information is provided to the NOK in each instance. 5) Whereas, the POW/MIA Families, second only to our missing loved ones, are the primary stakeholders in DPAA’s efforts, therefore, be it RESOLVED by the National League of POW/MIA Families, convened during the Business Session of our 49th Annual Meeting on June 23, 2018, that DPAA should proactively notify families when changes to DPAA processes and procedures occur that impact the accounting effort, including ADDITIONS FOR ALL FIELD OPERATIONS and DPAA rationale for prioritization of field activities; and be it further RESOLVED that copies of case narratives and reports submitted to DPAA for field prioritization be shared with the families in a timely manner; and be it finally RESOLVED that DPAA should establish a more formalized, transparent process for evaluation by DPAA leadership of said narratives and reports and should thoughtfully re-establish this process as quickly as possible. 6) Whereas, the POW/MIA Families, second only to our missing loved ones, are the primary stakeholders in DPAA’s efforts, therefore, be it RESOLVED by the National League of POW/MIA Families, convened during the Business Session of our 49th Annual Meeting on June 23, 2018, that DPAA should develop a program to pursue potentially useful information from Lao, Vietnamese and Cambodian people now in the US or elsewhere. DPAA-HOSTED FAMILY UPDATES: DPAA-hosted Family Member Updates (FMUs) are no longer restricted solely to family members. Responsible Veteran Service Organization (VSO) representatives can now be included, as are League and other Non-Government Organization (NGO) officials. Following are upcoming dates and locations: November 17th, Greensboro, NC; January 26th, 2019, San Antonio, TX; February 23rd, San Jose, CA; March 23rd, Birmingham, AL; April 20th, Salt Lake City, UT, and May 18th, Omaha, NE 50TH ANNIVERSARY ANNUAL MEETING AND CANDLELIGHT CEREMONY: Don’t miss being a part of this historic event, June 20-23, 2019. In addition to the always outstanding and informative speakers, panel discussions, and presentations, special guests and special events are being planned. Stay tuned for more details! Save the dates and book your room at the Hilton Crystal CityHotel, 2399 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, Virginia 22202. Book through the Hilton Link http://www.hilton.com/en/hi/groups/personalized/D/DCANAHF-MIA-20190615/index.jhtml. Or call 703-418-6800 or 800-774-1500; the group code is MIA and the room rate is $158, per room, per night, plus applicable taxes. Though the room allocation has been raised, attendance is expected to be high, so book early, or no later than May 16th, to reserve your room. REMINDER: Next year, 2019, is election of the League’s 2019 – 2021 Board of Directors. If you are a League family member in good standing (dues paid current), you are eligible to be a candidate. More information will be available in the December/January League Newsletter. Donate today, 501(c)3, #23-7071242