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 U.S. Pilot’s Remains Found in Iraq After 18 Years

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Mansoor
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Number of posts : 22

PostSubject: U.S. Pilot’s Remains Found in Iraq After 18 Years   Mon Aug 03, 2009 1:48 am

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


U.S. Navy, via Associated Press
Captain Michael Scott Speicher
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Times Topics: Michael Scott Speicher


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The Navy pilot, Capt. 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 shot down by an Iraqi warplane 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 from lieutenant commander 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 residents 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 in Delaware 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 Adm. 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.

Cindy Laquidara, a spokeswoman for the Speicher family, told The Associated Press that relatives had learned on Saturday of the discovery. “The family’s proud of the way the Defense Department continued on with our request” to not abandon the search, she said. “We will be bringing him home.”

Ms. Laquidara said the family would say more after being briefed by Pentagon officials, but did not know when that would be.

After the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s government, a joint team from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency sifted through recovered 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 in an Iraqi prison.

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

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.
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