According to the Department of Defense, there are 81,899 Americans missing in action (MIA). Most of them are from World War II (72,593). There are still 7,587 American MIAs from the Korean War and 1,587 from the Vietnam War.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency is responsible for finding as many of these people as possible and returning them home. As I went on their website, I was amazed to find stories of bodies identified over 70 years later.
On May 15, 2020, the agency announced that they were able to identify the remains of Navy Seaman 2nd Class Floyd D. Helton. This man was killed on board the USS Oklahoma during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
That ship lost 429 crewmen, which was more casualties than any other ship at Pearl Harbor except for the USS Arizona.
Following World War II, 405,399 Americans were killed and 78,750 were missing. In the last 75 years, we have only found 8 percent of the MIAs from World War II.
Over 41,000 of the MIAs are presumed to be lost at sea from sunken ships and planes shot down. As for MIAs lost on land, recovering these bodies has required skillful diplomacy against some of our worst enemies.
For example, in the 1954, the North Koreans returned the remains of 3,000 American soldiers. In the 1990s, American diplomats were able to make further progress on this issue with the North Koreans. From 1990 to 1994, the North Koreans gave the United States 208 boxes of remains. DoD scientists estimated that the remains of approximately 400 people were in those boxes.
From 1996 to 2005, the United States government conducted 33 missions in North Korea to find the remains of American soldiers killed in the war. The United States has also conducted joint field missions with Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to find MIAs lost in the Vietnam War.
In 1973, there were 2,646 Americans that were MIA from the Vietnam War. Over the next 40 years, our government has been able to identify, and repatriate, over one thousand Americans.
In addition to the wars in Korea and Vietnam, there are a total of 126 personnel missing from 14 reconnaissance missions conducted between 1950 to 1969. The most deadly incident occurred in 1969 when a U.S. Navy EC-121 plane was shot down by two North Korean MIG-21 fighters over the Sea of Japan. Of the 31 Americans killed in this incident, only two Americans were found.
In the most recent conflicts, there are another six missing. During the 1986 bombing of Libya (Operation El Dorado Canyon), Air Force Captain Paul F. Lorence was shot down and lost.
From the 1991 Gulf War, two U.S. Navy pilots, Lieutenant Commander Barry T. Cooke and Lieutenant Robert J. Dwyer remain unaccounted for in Iraq. In 2009, the body of a third Navy pilot, Lieutenant Commander Michael Scott Speicher, was found in al-Anbar province after 18 years.
In Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2010), three contractors from the Department of Defense are still missing (Kirk Von Ackermann, Timothy E. Bell, and Adnan al-Hilawi).
I think we should all be very proud of the efforts from our government to find these people and bring them home. No matter how long it takes, we cannot give up hope.
Robert Zapesochny is a researcher and writer whose work focuses on foreign affairs, national security and presidential history. His work has appeared in a range of publications, including The American Spectator, the Washington Times, and The American Conservative. For several years Robert worked closely with Peter Hannaford, a senior aide to Ronald Reagan, as the primary researcher on four books and numerous columns. Robert has also worked on multiple presidential, national and statewide campaigns, including as a field office staffer for the Bush-Cheney campaign. Due to his own Russian-Jewish heritage, Robert has a keen interest in the history of U.S.-Soviet relations. In 2017 he was the co-organizer of an effort that erected commemorative statue of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow. Robert graduated with a major in Political Science from the University at Buffalo, and received his Master’s in Public Administration, with a focus in healthcare, from the State University of New York College at Brockport. When he’s not writing, Robert works for a medical research company in Rochester, New York. Read Robert Zapeochny's Reports — More Here.
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