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thedrifter
08-02-09, 08:26 AM
August 3, 2009
Pilot’s Remains Found in Iraq After 18 Years
By THOM SHANKER

WASHINGTON — Navy officials announced early Sunday that Marines in western Anbar Province, Iraq, had found remains that have been positively identified as those of an American fighter pilot shot down in the opening hours of the first Gulf War in 1991.

The Navy pilot, Michael Scott Speicher, was the only American missing in action from that war. Efforts to determine what happened to him after his F/A-18 Hornet was lost to ground fire on Jan. 17, 1991, had continued despite false rumors and scant information.

Conflicting reports from Iraq had, over the years, fueled speculation that the pilot, promoted to captain in the years he was missing, might have been taken into captivity either after parachuting from his jet or after a crash landing.

But the evidence in Iraq suggests he did not survive and was buried by Bedouins shortly after he was shot down.

An official statement released early Sunday said that Marines in western Iraq had received information from local citizens last month about the crash of an American jet and the burial of the pilot.

“One of these Iraqi citizens stated that they were present when Captain Speicher was found dead at the crash site by Bedouins and his remains buried,” the statement said. “The Iraqi citizens led U.S. Marines to the site.”

A search of the area last week recovered remains that included bones and skeletal fragments, which were flown to Dover Air Force Base for scientific examination.

Positive identification was made by visual and radiographical comparisons of Captain Speicher’s dental records with the jawbone recovered at the site.

“Our Navy will never give up looking for a shipmate, regardless of how long or how difficult that search may be,” said Admiral Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, in a statement. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Captain Speicher and his family for the sacrifice they have made for our nation and the example of strength they have set for all of us.”

Although the dental records confirmed the identity of the dead pilot, further DNA tests will be conducted to compare the remains with samples previously provided by family members, the statement said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Captain Speicher’s family for the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country,” said Ray Mabus, secretary of the Navy, in a statement. “I am also extremely grateful to all those who have worked so tirelessly over the last 18 years to bring Captain Speicher home.”

After the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the collapse of the Saddam Hussein government, a joint team from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency sifted through captured documents, interrogated prisoners of war and searched possible crash sites to try to determine Captain Speicher’s fate.

Defense Department officials had been skeptical about reports that Captain Speicher was alive. Some of those reports were haunting, including one story that his initials or name had been found scratched into the wall of a cell of an Iraqi prison.

A crash site had been identified by as early as 1993, when a group of Qataris that had been on a hunting holiday in remote west-central Iraq handed over some materials they found that later were identified as coming from his fighter.

In December 1995, the United States, working through the International Committee of the Red Cross, was able to send a team to the crash site to investigate. They found no ejection seat and no signs of a body or bones.

Ellie

thedrifter
08-02-09, 08:50 AM
Navy Capt. Michael Scott Speicher, the F/A-18 Hornet pilot shot down over Iraq in 1991. His official status has changed several times since his plane disappeared, from missing-in-action to missing-in-action/body not recovered to missing-in-action/captured. (U.S. Navy / June 28, 2008)

thedrifter
08-02-09, 08:51 AM
Remains of pilot missing 18 years in Iraq found
Capt. Michael Scott Speicher's jet was shot down over the desert on the first night of the 1991 war. The inability to find his body led to nearly two decades of speculation.
By Tony Perry
Los Angeles Times

4:57 AM PDT, August 2, 2009

The military has identified the remains of a Navy pilot shot down on the opening night of the Persian Gulf War, officials announced early today.

The F/A-18 Hornet flown by Capt. Michael Scott Speicher was shot down on Jan. 17, 1991 while on a combat mission over western Iraq. He was considered the first U.S. casualty of the war.

The inability to find his body led to nearly two decades of controversy and uncertainty about how to classify his disappearance or whether Speicher survived the crash and was being held as a prisoner. Now, the military mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware has identified remains found in Al Anbar Province as those of Speicher.

"The teeth are a match, both visually and radiographically," the military said in a formal statement.

Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of Naval operations, has notified Speicher's family. "The Navy will never give up looking for a shipmate, regardless of how long or how difficult that search may be," Roughead said.

The discovery of the remains began when an Iraqi contacted Marines in Anbar province with information about a desert location believed to be the crash site. From that information, Marines found a Bedouin living in the desert who said he was present when Speicher's plane crashed and his body was buried.

The remains included bones and multiple skeletal fragments, the military said. Although the dental records match, the military is running DNA tests at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology DNA Laboratory in Rockville, Md., for additional confirmation.

The official status of Speicher has changed several times in the 18 years since his plane disappeared, from missing-in-action to missing-in-action/body not recovered to missing-in-action/captured.

In 2005, then-Navy Secretary Gordon England concluded that there was no credibile evidence that Speicher was dead. And in March of this year, then-Navy Secretary Donald Winter determined that Speicher's status was missing-in-action.

After the U.S. toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, investigators fanned out across Anbar province looking for clues about Speicher's crash.

Speicher, a graduate of Florida State University, was flying off the carrier Saratoga. Various reports have said his plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile or by an Iraqi MIG. Speicher was 33 years old, married with two children.

The U.S. has renamed an Iraqi air base near Tikrit in his honor. President George W. Bush, in addressing the United Nations about the need to bring down the government of Saddam Hussein, mentioned Speicher.

"We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Capt. Speicher and his family for the sacrifice they have made for our nation and the example of strength they have set for all of us," Roughead said in announcing the identification.

Ellie