Vietnam War Disc Jockey Cronauer Praises Families of MIAs
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 15, 2005 The man who became famous bellowing "Good morning, Vietnam!" to his military radio audience today praised the families of servicemembers still listed as missing in action in Southeast Asia.
Adrian Cronauer of "Good Morning, Vietnam" fame told a gathering of more than 270 Vietnam War era families that their legacy set an example for Korean War and World War II families to form their own family organizations. Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
In his opening remarks for the Defense Department's 2005 annual government briefing for Vietnam War-era families here today, former Air Force disc jockey Adrian Cronauer -- who was portrayed on the silver screen by Robin Williams in the film named for his famous greeting -- noted the "strong and positive impact" the families have had in driving the government's effort to achieve the fullest possible accounting of their missing loved ones.
"If it weren't for you, the Southeast Asia families, there would be no continuing outreach effort for any families," Cronauer told more than 270 family members who came from throughout the nation for the three-day government briefing. "There would be no National POW/MIA Recognition Day. There would be no black flag. There would be no government-funded airlift for these government briefings each year. Perhaps ... there might not be any government briefings at all!"
Cronauer, now a special assistant to the deputy assistant secretary of defense for prisoner of war and missing personnel affairs, told the families that their influence is felt far and wide - in the White House, in Congress, in the Pentagon and across the entire nation.
"Your legacy set an example for Korean War and World War II families to form their own family organizations," he noted.
Cronauer said their influence hasn't stopped there. "Your mark in history also directly affects the safety of our young men and women who are in combat today," he said. "The expertise of your government developed in the area of accounting for the missing today carries over to what we call personnel recovery or combat search and rescue."
He said this means training, preparing and equipping warfighters before they go into harm's way. It means teaching them how to escape and evade, and training those who might have to find and rescue them, he added, training in a joint environment, and learning how to get downed servicemembers out of enemy hands, if necessary.
"Throughout these next three days, you'll hear from your government's top specialists - representing a worldwide team of more than 600 people," Cronauer said. "These experts represent you as they pore over dusty archives of our former enemies.
"As they slog through leech-infested rice paddies," he continued, "as they apply their expertise in negotiations and as they develop U.S. government policies, and as they use the world's latest scientific techniques to locate, identify and account for your loved ones, they're all working for you."
Cronauer told the families that their presence at the briefings shows that they haven't forgotten. "So, it's important that we - acting as your advocates - reassure you that we haven't forgotten," he said. "Of course, just simply 'remembering' doesn't actually account for your loved ones. You want action - dedicated and hard-nosed action. Even more - you want results!"
A third of the family members listening to Cronauer's words are participating in the annual update for the first time.
"Ninety of them are first time attendees at a POW/MIA government briefing," said Larry Greer, public affairs spokesman for the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office. "This is part of the annual program to help inform Vietnam War families, and, later in the year, Korean War and Cold War families about the efforts we make across the globe to account for their missing loved ones."
Congress passed legislation in 2002 that authorizes the secretary of defense to provide travel expenses to the meetings for two family members of servicemembers unaccounted for from the Korean conflict, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, or the Persian Gulf War, Greer noted.
Cronauer told the families that DoD and the military services provide travel expenses for them because their loved ones made the supreme sacrifice. "They raised their hands and said, 'I'll go!'" he said. "They did it when others refused to. And for the past 30 years, you've endured the uncertainty and the pain that so few others will ever know. Your country knows that it can never repay its debt to you. But we can continue our search, never forgetting your loved ones' sacrifice - or your sacrifice - and we can do our best to ensure that we keep you fully informed about our efforts on your behalf."
DPMO statistics show that there were 2,583 servicemen missing in action when the Vietnam War ended - 1,921 in Vietnam, 569 in Laos, 83 in Cambodia and 10 in China. Officials report that as of June 1, 2005, 750 have since been repatriated and identified - 524 from Vietnam, 195 from Laos, 28 from Cambodia and three from China.
Still missing are 1,397 in Vietnam, 374 in Laos, 55 in Cambodia and seven in China, for a total of 1,833.
DPMO officials said of the remaining 1,397 Americans still unaccounted for in Vietnam, 621 are in a "no further pursuit" status. This means that as a result of rigorous investigation there's conclusive evidence the individuals perished, but recovery experts don't believe it's possible to recover their remains.
The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command normally conducts four joint field activities each year in Vietnam, officials noted. Each JFA involves about 95 U.S. personnel, plus their Vietnamese counterparts. Together, they work on investigations and excavations throughout the country for 30 days. American remains are transferred to the Central Identification Lab in Hawaii for positive identification by forensic anthropologists.
The annual government briefing is scheduled to coincide with the annual meetings of the National League of Families and the National Alliance of Families being conducted in the area. Those organizations are meeting at a hotel about a mile away from the government briefings site.
On June 17, families will be bused to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where they can see the three main elements: the wall with 58,249 names inscribed on it, the Three Servicemen Statue and the Vietnam Women's Memorial honoring the women who served in Vietnam.
Afterward, they will go to Capitol Hill, where the U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own," is scheduled to perform a concert saluting the Southeast Asia families on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.