POW/MIA Committee Update January/February 2016


The list of missing and unaccounted-for U.S. personnel from the Vietnam War numbers 1, 624 as of Jan. 6, 2016. For various reasons, including wishes of the families, DOD announcements are often delayed far beyond ID dates and sometimes are not even made.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Billy D. Hill, 21, of Wichita, Kan ., was buried Dec. 17, in Killeen, Texas. Hill was assigned to the 282nd Aviation Company, 14th Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade, as a gunner on a UH-1D helicopter. Date of loss: Jan. 21, 1968. Date of recovery: 1989. Identified: Dec. 15, 2015.

Army Staff Sgt. Kenneth L. Cunningham, 21, of Ellery, Ill ., was assigned to the 225th Aviation Company, 223rd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade.  Interment was planned for Staff Sgt. Cunningham’s birthday, January 21, 2016, in Little Prairie Cemetery in Alboin, Ill. Date of loss: Oct. 3, 1969. Date of recovery: 1997/2010. Identification: Nov. 13, 2015.

On Nov. 9, 2015, the last four caskets containing the remains of unidentified service members lost on the U.S.S. Oklahoma were exhumed from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP).

The disinterment concluded a project that totaled sixty-one caskets being removed since June 2015, after a memo from Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work authorized DOD to include remains commingled during salvage operations. Over the last six months the Defense Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency, with the help of the VA, exhumed the remains of 388 servicemembers from forty-five graves at the NMCP.

Dental remains identification will be completed in Hawaii. The re-sorting and processing of the post-cranial remains will be performed at the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha. Forensic scientists there also will organize the remains using anthropological and DNA analysis. 

DPAA, in concert with the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, will use DNA samples donated by family members, as well as medical and dental records, in the identification process. The agency estimates that 80 percent of the unknown remains associated with the U.S.S Oklahoma can be identified within five years.

Remains that still cannot be identified may be reinterred in a known group burial in Arlington National Cemetery or the NMCP.

Sybil Bailey Stockdale, 90, the wife of the late Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale, died Oct. 10. After her husband’s plane was shot down over North Vietnam and he was taken prisoner, she organized military wives to demand that the U.S. government pressure North Vietnam to abide by the Geneva Convention regarding the mistreatment of prisoners of war. Stockdale helped found the League of American Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia. The military credited Sybil Stockdale with helping secure the safe return of her husband and other POWs in 1973. She was buried beside him on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

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