Wolfowitz Restates 'Full-Accounting' Pledge
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 29, 2002 "The fullest possible accounting is our solemn pledge -- however long it takes, wherever it takes us, whatever the cost," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz told families of U.S. service members missing from the Korean and Cold Wars July 26 in Arlington, Va.
The nation will not rest, he said, until the pledge has been fulfilled for the thousands of service members who are still missing after defending freedom during the Korean War, Vietnam and the Cold War.
"If we fail to keep faith with those who did their duty in the past, we could not expect Americans to do their duty in the future, should the need arise," Wolfowitz commented. The pledge holds true for today's service members as well.
"The brave men and women who are serving in Afghanistan today and in other theaters of the war on terror can do so with full confidence that if they do fall in battle, their nation will spare no effort to bring them home," he vowed.
The deputy saluted the parents, wives, siblings, children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren who have taken up the torch to bring missing relatives home. "We all draw strength and inspiration from your commitment and your devotion," he said to the 739 family members in the audience.
At times in the past, he noted, "it was fairly standard practice to simply assume that missing loved ones were dead, that their remains were not recoverable." Perhaps one of the greatest hardships families "had to bear was the idea that your government had closed the book on the fate of your loved one, when you had not."
By banding together with others who shared the same burden, he said, family members have brought about change. He credited Vietnam War POW/MIA families with setting many precedents and giving the nation the accounting principles now in use around the world.
"For the first time, we have a comprehensive list of the 8,100 servicemen missing from the Korean War, compiled as a result of a three-year effort," Wolfowitz said. "A DNA database to help identify remains is well under way."
U.S. officials know this is just a start and there is much work ahead, he said, adding, "We are determined to succeed." The cause is moving forward in Korea, China, the former Soviet Union and Vietnam, and it involves dealing with some "tough customers," he added. Experience has shown that "with toughness and determination, with a strong sense of purpose, with integrity and resolve, we can ultimately make progress."
At present, a search team from the Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii is in northeastern China trying to recover the remains of two U.S. pilots whose CIA plane crashed there in 1952. Recovery missions are also under way in two locations in North Korea, north of Pyongyang and near the Chosin Reservoir.
U.S. officials met with North Korean officials in Bangkok twice this year, Wolfowitz said, and North Korea agreed to allow veterans and families to visit the North. He said Medal of Honor recipient Marine Gen. Ray Davis, for example, wants to go back to Chosin to visit the battlefield.
"In that humanitarian spirit of cooperation," Wolfowitz said, "I ask leaders of all the countries in which our men are still missing to respond to our appeals. Their cooperation will be recognized and appreciated by a grateful American nation, and it can provide a bedrock of trust for the future, despite current differences."