In its first such estimate, the Pentagon said Monday the remains of more than 500 American servicemen killed in the Vietnam War will never be recovered. It said recovery remains possible for about 1,500 others who are missing.
These conclusions are based on a yearlong review of individual cases of U.S. troops missing in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia - all of whom the Pentagon says were killed but their remains not recovered for a variety of reasons.
It is the first time the Pentagon has reviewed each case and concluded that, for a specific number, it was hopeless to continue trying to recover the remains. It has long said, more generally, that some cases would go unresolved.
The Defense POW-MIA Office, which conducted the review, concluded that of the 2,202 cases on the books as of July 21, there was sufficient information available to continue actively pursuing 1,476 cases. It said action on 159 cases was being “deferred” until additional information is found, and that for 567 cases, there was “virtually no possibility” of ever finding the remains “regardless of any future effort put forward by” the U.S. or other governments.
Bev Baker, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the 2,202 figure has since fallen to 2,170 because additional remains have been identified and repatriated since July 21. She said that means the 1,476 cases that were active in July now stands at 1,444.
Declaring 567 cases hopeless is a sensitive matter. MIA activist groups and some in Congress assert that the Clinton administration has done too little to find the missing.