Vietnam “Unknown” Coming Home At Last – July 1, 1998

Air Force pilot Michael Blassie's remains are coming home at last, 26 years after his bomber was shot down in South Vietnam.

Defense Secretary William Cohen called Blassie's family Tuesday and confirmed its long suspicion that the remains recently removed from the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery belong to Blassie.

The remains were identified through blood DNA tests.

“We have waited a long time to hear this formally,” sister Pat Blassie said at a news conference outside her mother's home in north St. Louis County. “This is a significant day in our family's search for the truth. We are finally going to bring Michael home.”

Blassie was 24 and a lieutenant when his A-37 bomber was shot down near An Loc in South Vietnam on May 11, 1972. His remains, which were classified as unidentified, have rested until seven weeks ago in the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Chris Calhoon, a retired Army colonel who never knew Blassie, led a 1972 mission into the jungle to recover the remains.

He told The Associated Press earlier this year that he had no doubt the bag of bones and personal effects that he threw into a helicopter as it was mobbed by refugees and pummeled by enemy fire were those of Blassie.

The Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii analyzed the four ribs, pelvis and an upper arm and labeled them as “believed to be” those of Blassie, but in 1979 the designation was removed when it was decided the evidence was scant.

Blassie was then listed as “killed in action, no body recovered.” His remains were buried in the Tomb of the Unknowns on Memorial Day in 1984.

But the trail of evidence kept getting stronger, including Blassie's wallet and dog tags found at the crash site. The family prevailed and the remains were exhumed in May.

The Blassies want to have Michael's remains buried in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis on July 11, when a tombstone will replace a white marker bearing his name.

“He was good at everything he tried to do,” said his mother, Jean Blassie.

George Blassie said his brother inspired: “He was a mentor. He was a hero. He deserves to be known.”

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