MISSION: MIA Recovery
searching for UXOs along Rt. 28A in Savannakhet Province, Laos
For decades joint investigation and recovery missions have been ongoing between the U.S. government; specifically the Defense POW MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) which is part of the Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the governments of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The investigations they conduct into those service members still unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War are time, labor and cost intensive.
Efforts to recover MIAs involve looking into the past to events that occurred decades ago. The DPAA, and also the DIA conduct joint investigations with the Vietnamese and Laotian government to locate and interview former North Vietnamese soldiers.
These interviews can be challenging for several reasons. Some former North Vietnamese soldiers have detailed and accurate recollections of specific events related to shoot downs of U.S. aircraft, others may not have comparable recollections of events. Also, witnesses in villages in Laos may be interviewed for their potential knowledge… past and present including what they may have witnessed during the war and current location of crash sites of U.S. aircraft or evidence.
Laos is the most bombed country in the world (per capita) and because many bombs dropped during the war failed to explode there are millions of unexploded UXOs (unexploded ordnances) in and on the ground throughout the country. Prior to a “boots-on-the-ground” investigation in Laos the area of interest must be cleared of UXO’s and any that are found are deactivated. When information or evidence indicates that there may be a burial site of a U.S. service member who is still MIA (remember… there are 285 unaccounted-for in Laos) this UXO clearing process must also take place before an excavation can occur. If a successful excavation occurs revealing human remains and/or evidence related to a service member i.e. pieces of equipment, those items are sent to the DPAA laboratory in Hawaii. At the laboratory the goal is to identify the remains of a MIA service member. If a positive identification is made the next-of-kin of the service member is contacted and arrangements are made to have him repatriated.
As you can imagine the process of these investigations and recovery missions are very complex. A boots-on-the-ground investigation involves many DPAA personnel with local villagers assisting; 50 or more people working on a recovery mission is not uncommon. A base camp is set up for as long as several months to accommodate the personnel involved and the operations of the mission. Specialized personnel such as a forensic anthropologist, medic, bomb disposal personnel, linguist, communications technician, photographer, mortuary affairs specialist are among the highly trained personnel conducting recovery missions.
A PEACEFUL moment during sunset at the Mekong River- Savannakhet, Laos
Missions in Laos remains alert to new information about successful recovery missions of MIAs.
As we evolve we want to be open to and aware of any other options to accomplish more recoveries of those MIA.
For the most current statistics for recoveries with identifications made from the Vietnam War, Korean War, WWII, please click on this link: