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The Last Unknown Soldier?
Courtesy of Time Magazine, January 1998
1st Lieut. MICHAEL BLASSIE's 138th combat mission ended in flames near An Loc, South Vietnam, in May 1972, when the enemy blasted the wing off his plane. What is unknown is whether Blassie, then a 24-year-old Air Force Academy graduate, now rests beneath a sacred marble slab in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. That possibility got a boost last week as veterans detailed their hunch that, through snafus and an eagerness to anoint a Vietnam-era vet as an unknown, the Pentagon ignored evidence that could have determined if the six bones buried at Arlington are Blassie's. The two World Wars and Korea generated thousands of unknown candidates for the tomb. But by Vietnam, improved forensic science had precluded nearly all anonymous KIAs. Pentagon officials note that in 1984, when the Vietnam unknown was selected, the DNA "fingerprinting" used today didn't exist. But because of the Pentagon's desire to satisfy the Blassie family, there is a good chance the remains will be exhumed to see if they are his. If so, his family wants to rebury him back home near St. Louis, or perhaps elsewhere in Arlington. Pentagon officials believe such a move would signal the end of a military tradition.