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DoD Draws Good DNA Sample From Vietnam Unknown

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 17, 1998 – Defense scientists have "a good DNA sample" from the bones disinterred from the Tomb of the Unknowns, DoD spokesman Ken Bacon said June 11.

He said the sample makes DoD officials more assured researchers will be able to identify the Vietnam Unknown. "It gives us more confidence, but not 100 percent confidence," Bacon said.

A DoD working group that recommended DoD disinter the Vietnam Unknown said the remains are more than likely those of either Air Force 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie or Army Capt. Rodney Strobridge. Both died near An Loc, South Vietnam, on May 11, 1972. Blassie piloted an A-37 and Strobridge, a Cobra helicopter. DoD officials included seven other Americans who died in the crash of a C-130 near An Loc.

Scientists at the Armed Forces DNA Laboratory in Rockville, Md., now must match the mitochondrial DNA sample with samples taken from family members. Mitochondrial DNA is passed through the mother. Seven of the nine families have provided samples from the matriarchal line. One family has refused, and another has no relatives in the matriarchal line. Bacon said the families have been extremely cooperative during a very difficult time.

He said he could not guess when scientists would be ready, but POW/Missing Personnel Office officials said an identification normally takes about 90 days. Bacon said no decision has been made about replacing the Vietnam Unknown.

"Science has progressed to the point where we can identify all remains from the recent past," he said. "Before making any decision we will consult with families, veterans groups, members of Congress. [Whether to inter remains in the tomb] is not just a scientific decision, but a public policy decision."

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