Some U.S. military officials have always known but sought to conceal the probable identity of the Vietnam War serviceman buried in Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns, CBS News said on Monday.
A report on “CBS Evening News” said a seven-month investigation had determined that the remains in the memorial are “almost certainly” those of Michael Joseph Blassie, a highly decorated Air Force pilot who died at the age of 24 when he was shot down in May 1972 near An Loc close to the Cambodia border.
The following October a ground patrol in the area found Blassie's identity card, money, shreds of a flight suit and some skeletal remains, the report said. The card and the money later disappeared.
For the next eight years, according to CBS, the formal designation of the remains was that they were “believed to be” Blassie's. But by 1980 the Pentagon was under heavy pressure to add the body of an unidentified Vietnam serviceman to those from the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War at the Arlington cemetery, which is across the Potomac River from Washington.
“There was a problem,” the report continued: “The science of identification had advanced so fast Army scientists said that given enough time there would be NO unknowns.”
Only three or four sets of remains, including Blassie's, were candidates for the tomb, it said.
In 1980 an Army review board, “for unknown reasons,” declared that the bones believed to be Blassie's were not, in fact, his, and they were code-named X-26, CBS News said.
It said Johnny Webb, head of the Army lab in Hawaii that identified Vietnam remains, indicated in a 1984 memo that all documents referring to Blassie had been removed from the X-26 file in response to Pentagon orders.
Nine days later X-26 was designated for inclusion in the memorial. President Ronald Reagan spoke at the ceremony at which this was done on Memorial Day of 1984.
The report quoted a former investigator of missing-in-action cases for the military as calling for the Vietnam remains to be exhumed for DNA testing.
It said the Pentagon, responding to the investigation, had taken the case under high-level review and might consider exhumation.
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard