Officials Close To Decision On Vietnam Unknown

U.S. military officials are expected to conduct tests on the remains of a Vietnam veteran interred in the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. This came after CBS News raised questions about the identity of those remains last January.

CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports there is no final decision yet. But such action is imminent, because key investigators believe that it is Air Force Lieutenant Michael Blassie buried in the tomb.

They say there is strong circumstantial evidence that Blassie is buried in the tomb, and DNA testing may be the only way to settle the issue once and for all. Blassie's family has waited for that final word since he was shot down over South Vietnam in 1972.

Gonzales reports that the remains that the family – and now the Pentagon – want tested were found six months after Blassie's crash. The recovery team that found the remains also found an ID card, money, and Blassie's wallet.

“But those ID papers disappeared when the remains were sent to Saigon,” says Gonzales. “The military later declared the remains, once identified as Blassie's, to be unidentifiable. And in 1984, in a solemn ceremony, that set of remains were entombed as the unknown serviceman for the Vietnam War.”

When the remains were sent from the field, it was in the midst of battle, in an area surrounded by three divisions of the North Vietnamese army. Helicopters were being used to remove things from the area, and when the personal effects were placed on the helicopter, there is a good chance they were stolen, Gonzales explains.

Blassie's mother says if DNA tests show it is her son buried in the Tomb of the Unknowns, she has a simple wish. The Blassie family says that if DNA tests are positive and it is Michael Blassie buried in the tomb, they want him brought home to St. Louis, Missouri.

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