Last Modified: Thursday, September 20, 2012 5:45 PM
Our nation has a military tradition and solemn duty to account for all military personnel lost in our nation’s wars, including those who died, but whose bodies were never recovered, those listed as missing in action and unaccounted for prisoners of war (POWs).
Today is National POW/MIA Recognition Day, the third Friday of September. It is a day of remembrance, awareness and a day to take stock of what is happening on this issue.
Incredibly, in this day of amazing tracking and identification technology, we still have 83,417 unaccounted for military personnel from past conflicts, from World War II to Iraq and other conflicts as of Sept. 14, according to Department of Defense, Military Personnel Office. Those statistics include 73,681 missing in action from World War II, 7,946 from the Korean War, 126 from the Cold War, 1,657 from the Vietnam War and six from Iraq and other conflicts.
The fact we still have so many unaccounted for individuals is not for lack of trying on the part of the government. Directly after World War II, the government operated a program for six years following up on all leads where missing personnel might be, until all leads were exhausted. But World War II remains still turn up as they are discovered by local farmers and other people who come across them.
In 1976, after much controversy about the missing POWs of the Vietnam War, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) was set up to resolve the lingering questions about missing personnel.
Operation Homecoming welcomed the return of 591 prisoners of war in 1973. Families and government officials were unsatisfied since 2,646 Americans were still unaccounted for, and as the current list notes, 1,657 still are.
Communist regimes in both North Korea and Vietnam often make recoveries in those nations difficult, to say the least.
Thankfully, we’ve had fewer problems with the Global War On Terrorism since 2001. However, still missing are two service members from Operation Desert Storm, one service member and three DOD contractors from Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Here are the most recent accounting:
• Lt. Col. Clarence F. Blanton, U. S. Air Force, 46, of El Reno, Okla., was killed in action in Laos on March 11, 1968, and his remains were finally located, identified and returned to his family, the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced on Sept. 11.
• On Sept. 5, DPMO announced the remains of Army Cpl. Francis J. Reimer, 19, of St. Cloud, Minn. were to be buried by his family on Sept. 8. Reimer went missing in the Chosin Reservoir fighting in North Korea in late November 1950. The remains, in American custody since 1994, were finally identified thanks to DNA technology.
• Also from the Korean War, Marine Cpl. Clarence H. Huff Jr., 20, of Brunswick, Ohio was buried Aug. 15 in Seville, Ohio. He also went missing in action in late November of 1950 in the Chosin Reservoir campaign. His remains had been in American custody since 1954, but new technology made it possible to identify him and return him to his family.
You can find their individual names at the DPMO web site, http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/.
Please keep our still missing military personnel in your thoughts and prayers.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.