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Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher MIA

I adopted Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher in March of 2002 through OJC. This man has been in the news a lot lately so I am sure most of you will already know who he is.

Rank/Branch: Lt.Cdr./US Navy


Age: 33

Home City of Record: Jacksonville FL

Date of Loss: 17 January 1991

Country of Loss: Unknown

Loss Coordinates:

Original Status: Missing in Action Status Changed to KIA/BNR May 1991 Status changed BACK to MIA 01/10/01

Acft/Vehicle/Ground: FA18

Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 09 March 1991 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK.

REMARKS: OPERATION DESERT STORM SYNOPSIS: Scott Speicher was raised in Kansas City. When he was in high school, the Speicher family moved to Jacksonville, Florida. Scott continued his education at Florida State University, receiving a degree in accounting and management.

Speicher went on to join the U.S. Navy and receive flight training. During the Mid-East Crisis, Speicher was one of 2,500 airmen assigned to the USS SARATOGA in the Red Sea. Speicher was part of a fighter squadron and flew the F18 "Hornet" fighter/bomber. On January 18, 1991, Speicher's aircraft was hit by an Iraqi SAM (surface-to-air missile) and crashed during the first Coalition offensive of the war dubbed "Operation Desert Storm." Initial reports by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney stated that Speicher had been killed. One military source said reports indicated the aircraft had "exploded to bits" in the sky, apparently having suffered a direct SAM hit. Iraqi officials soon announced the capture of American pilots. It was originally believed the chances of Speicher's ejection were slim, but the books were not closed on Speicher. He was the first American to be listed Missing in Action. Most recent media reports indicate that he was probably "confirmed killed." Although Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney has said Speicher was killed, he is still officially listed missing in action.

The Methodist church in Florida where Scott Speicher has been a Sunday School teacher has held prayer and candlelight vigils for his safety. They have not given up hope that he is still alive.

Michael is my 2nd adopted POW/MIA. So I am familiar with a lot of information on the POW/MIA issues. We have many soldiers who were left behind in foreign lands when their "brothers" came back home. Imagine what it must be like for them. Picture yourself, your husband, brother, sister, father or friend in a foreign land alone, abused, confused, wondering. Wondering if your country will ever come back for you. Wondering if you will ever see your family again. Wondering if you will see your child graduate or get married. Wondering if you will see your grandchildren. Wondering when is the next time you will be beaten. Wondering if you will survive the next beating. Wondering everyday if you can stay strong enough to live through this situation your country has left you in. Could you do it? Could you live this life? The life of a POW?

Or if you or a loved one were killed in a war in a foreign land would you want to be buried there or would you rather be brought to American soil where you belong? Where THEY belong!

There are many men from many wars who are unaccounted for. Some may be dead, some may still be in POW camps, we need to find them and bring them home!

Being the wife of a Gulf War Veteran I feel very strongly on this issue. If my husband were today sent overseas to fight in a war, I would expect for him to come home no matter what! Even if he had been killed I would expect his remains to be sent home. And I would never ever give up trying to find him if he were not sent home to me!!!

If you read the articles within this page and many others on the internet, you will find out that there was NEVER an immediate search for Speicher. It was seceral years before our Government even went a checked out the crash sight. By that time there had been others who had already been to the sight. Do you think there should have been an immediate search for Speicher? I sure do! Maybe then they could have gotten more information on what exactly happened. Maybe if they would have, Speicher would be home now! Maybe he could have watched his children grow up. But this is not how it happened for Speicher.

I have many articles here within this page. And I will add more as I find them. So stop back often to see what is new. And please remember to sign my guestbook.

In the first days of March, 1991, 21 American POWs were released by the Iraqis. Scott Speicher has not yet been released. Those who recall the abandonment of American POWs in World War II, Korea and Vietnam are watching carefully, determined that men like Speicher will be returned alive, or fully accounted for, before American troops leave the Middle East when hostilities cease.

Scott Speicher and his wife Joanne have two children, a daughter, age 3, and a son, age 1. All live in Jacksonville, Florida. Speicher's father, Wallace Speicher, was a Navy pilot in World War II. As of May 1997, Michael Speicher is still unaccounted for. His status, Missing in Action, changed to KIA shortly after his incident. Although the USG has excavated what they believe to have been the plane's crash site, no remains were found. The USG also stated, prior to the excavation, that all men were accounted for.

U.S. Veterans Dispatch/1996 Ted Sampley Lt. Cmdr. Micahel S. Speicher: Expendable There is no chance Lt. Cmdr. Michael S. Speicher survived, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney assured the American people within hours of the Navy pilot's failure to return to the aircraft carrier Saratoga on the night of Jan. 16, 1991. He was last heard from over Iraqi flying northeast toward Baghdad.

Speicher, 33, of Jacksonville, Fla, was the first U. S. pilot shot down in the Gulf War. He left a wife, a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-year old son. On Jan. 18, 1991, less than 48-hours after Speicher became missing, the Pentagon said his single-seat FA-18 Hornet fighter bomber was shot down by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile. The plane "exploded to bits" in the sky after being hit.

"Evidently, pieces of the plane were strewn all over the Iraqi landscape and Speicher's wing mates saw it happen," the official said.

So, if Speicher and his aircraft "exploded to bits" all over the Iraqi sky in 1991, why, in December 1995, did a Pentagon team go to Iraq On a secret mission to look at the wreckage of Speicher's fighter end to search for his remains?

The search mission, which was led by the International Committee of the Red Cross and undertaken with the approval of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, found the wreckage virtually intact and upside down. Pentagon spokesman Bev Baker said the U.S. team, which conducted a week long excavation and search of the site, found "no human remains" in the wreckage or around the crash site.

Evidence is now surfacing indicating that Speicher parachuted from his plane, landed safely, was alive on the ground and later captured. These revelations have the Pentagon scrambling for cover. Naval intelligence is now saying they were never sure why Speicher's plane disintegrated in midair. They now conclude he either had a freak midair collision with an Iraqi MIG-25 or that the enemy plane shot him out of the sky. Pentagon officials told the press in December that a parry of hunters discovered the crash site of Speicher's Navy FA-18 two years ago and that as a result, a U.S. spy satellite photographed the crash site. Intelligence officials conveyed the images to the POW/MIA office at the Defense Department. Secretary of State Warren Christopher contacted the Red Cross in Baghdad and requested its assistance. "Not exactly," a Capitol Hill source familiar with the case told the U.S. Veteran Dispatch.

"A couple of years ago, Naval Intelligence picked up a story that Speicher had survived the shoot down and was captured by the Iraqis," the source explained. "As a result, Pentagon intelligence went back and looked at old satellite imagery of the Speicher crash site which was in a wasteland far from civilization. Beside Speicher's ejection seat located on the ground several miles away from the wreckage of the aircraft' the analysts found the image of a two-letter Escape and Evade (E and E) symbol used by downed pilots to indicate they are alive and want to be rescued. "They also checked the debriefs of other pilots who had been shot down and released from Iraq. They may have even reinterviewed some of the former prisoners. One pilot said he was told by his Iraqi captors that 'the guy in the FA-18 shot down on the first day is on the run and we're going toe catch him," the source said.

When asked if it was true that the Pentagon had satellite imagery of Speicher's ejection seat and E and E code, Baker said "The Pentagon does not discuss intelligence reports." She said it was still the position of the Department of Defense that Speicher was killed in action, body not returned, and that pilot observation remained the basis of that conclusion. The U.S. government's rush to declare Speicher dead is a glaring example of the Pentagon's secret policy of writing off military personnel who become captured or missing during a conflict as "expendable." As servicemen and women start falling into the hands of an enemy, the Pentagon simply declares them missing in action and denies all knowledge of Americans being captured. If some of the missing are resumed alive at the end of hostilities, it is a plus for the Pentagon. For those who are not returned, it is easier for the Pentagon to close the book by declaring them killed in action, body not returned.

Even after Cable News Network (CNN) reported Iraq's minister of information saying that American pilots had been captured and that reporters would be allowed to meet with them, the Pentagon denied knowledge of any Americans being captured.

"We know of no American prisoners of war," Lt. Gen. Thomas Kelly, operations director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said when asked by reporters if Iraq were holding any U.S. prisoners of war.

Only after video interviews of allied POWs were broadcast on Iraqi television and later in the United States did the Pentagon officially declare that the Iraqis were holding U.S. prisoners.

It was nearly two weeks after 20-year-old Army Spec. Melissa Rathbun-Nealy and 23 year-old Amy Spec. David Lockett disappeared before the Pentagon officially declared them missing in action.

The Pentagon had held the two absent without leave (AWOL) despite eyewitness accounts from American servicemen who saw them being captured and reports that a captured Iraqi soldier had said he helped transport two Americans, a white female and a black male (Nealy is white and Lockett is black.) to Basra, a key Iraqi command center north of Kuwait. Nealy's father, Leo Rathbun, took matters into his own hands and appealed directly to Saddam Hussein asking him to acknowledge his daughter as a prisoner of war. Rathbun told The Grand Rapids Press that he did not want his daughter forgotten if a peace plan calling for the release of all prisoners were to be signed. "The Army has not recognized Melissa as a POW and if the war ends, I believe the Bush administration would ignore the problem of MlAs and POWs just as previous administrations ignored the MIAs and POWs still thought to be held in Vietnam," Rathbun said in the interview.

Neither the U.S. or Iraqi governments officially acknowledged that Nealy and Lockett were prisoners of war until they were released in February 1991. Is Speicher alive? There certainly is evidence that he was alive after being shot down and in the absence of credible evidence proving him dead, all Americans must demand his immediate release.

Dozens more like Speicher are missing as a result of the war with Iraq and only the Pentagon knows exactly how many.

The Pentagon has always lied to the American people about U.S. servicemen known to be captives of an enemy. The Iying is as deadly for the captured and missing as an enemy bullet and it is time for it to stop. We must demand that our government be absolutely honest and accurate in accounting for our missing servicemen.

Otherwise, those brave men and women now serving our country in Bosnia will also be treated as expendable, abandoned to the enemy and allowed to disappear. That is exactly what happened to Lt. Cmd. Speicher and many unfortunate U.S. servicemen captured in Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam and in the Gulf.

March 19, 1999 The Honorable Richard Danzig Secretary of the Navy Pentagon, Room 4E686 Washington, D.C. 20350-1000 Dear Secretary Danzig: We are writing to request that you use your authority under Title 37, USCS, Section 555 (a) and 556 (d) to reconsider and change or modify the "finding of death" determination made by the Secretary of the Navy's designee on May 22, 1991 with respect to Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher, USN. We strongly believe, for the reasons noted below, that such action is indeed "warranted by information that has been received and other circumstances," as provided for in the above-cited law. We have further been advised that status determinations with respect to Lt. Cmdr. Speicher are not currently covered by the Missing Persons Act, Title 10, USCS, Sections 1501-1510, as amended, thereby making action under Title 37 appropriate. Lt. Cmdr. Speicher was the first American to be listed as missing in action when his F-18 was lost over Iraq during a combat strike mission in the first hours of the Gulf War in January, 1991. When the war ended, the Iraqi Government returned a "soft tissue fragment and hair bearing skin" which allegedly related to Lt. Cmdr. Speicher. However, subsequent DNA tests determined the remains were not those of Lt. Cmdr. Speicher.

The Navy convened a Status Review Board on May 20, 1991 to consider the state of evidence at that time related to Lt. Cmdr. Speicher's loss. On May 22, 1991, the late Admiral Mike Boorda, then Chief of Naval Personnel, approved and signed out the board-recommended "finding of death" which resulted in Lt. Cmdr. Speicher's status being changed from missing in action to killed in action. In December, 1993, a Qatari official and his hunting party came upon Lt. Cmdr. Speicher's aircraft wreckage in Iraq. He immediately forwarded to U.S. military officials pictures of the plane's canopy, a shard of metal with serial numbers, and passed on his recollection of having seen the ejection seat as well. Two years later, in December, 1995, U.S. crash site specialists from the Department of Defense were permitted to access the crash site, following coordination efforts between the Iraqi Government and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The results of the crash-site investigation were briefed to the Congress in the winter and spring of 1996. In December, 1997, we were further briefed on this matter by the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Frederick Smith, in response to concerns generated by the attached New York Times story. In February, 1998, a classified follow-up briefing on this case was provided to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO). In September, 1998, pursuant to our earlier inquiries on this matter, the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense provided to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence a classified chronology outlining Intelligence Community activities bearing on the issues raised as a result of Lt. Cmdr. Speicher's loss. The briefing materials and the chronology referenced above are available for your review. We strongly believe that the information contained therein supports the request we are making of you with this letter.

During the last three years, we understand that the Department of Defense has refused to authorize any further approaches to the Iraqi Government concerning the fate of Lt. Cmdr. Speicher "because of the state of U.S.-Iraqi relations." Nonetheless, our offices were informed during a briefing we received on March 12, 1999 that the official publicly-stated position of the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) with respect to whether the available evidence indicates Lt. Cmdr. Speicher perished in his aircraft incident, is "we don't know." As you know, the DPMO is charged with developing, implementing, and overseeing policy on unaccounted for U.S. personnel for the Department of Defense.

In view of the official position of the Department of Defense and the classified evidence now available to the Department of the Navy, we believe that the justification for the finding of death determination in May, 1991, is no longer valid and conclusive. We, therefore, urge you to use your statutory authority to change the status of Lt. Cmdr. Speicher back to "missing in action" -- a status that more accurately reflects the available evidence and provides a presumptive "benefit of the doubt" to Lt. Cmdr. Speicher. We owe nothing less to Lt. Cmdr. Speicher and his family.

We look forward to your response, and thank you for your personal attention to this very important matter that deeply concerns us. Sincerely yours, BOB SMITH ROD GRAMS United States Senator United States Senator

May 02, 2000 CBS News | The First Casualty CBS NEWS BROADCASTS The First Casualty A Downed Gulf War Flier Labeled 'Killed In Action' But What Really Happened To Him? (CBS) On January 17, 1991, the first night of the Gulf War, Lieutenant Commander Michael Scott Speicher was shot down over Iraq. He became the conflict's first American casualty.

But there's one problem: There is no evidence that he is dead. Bob Simon reports.

Speicher is the only American unaccounted for from the Gulf war. When Speicher was officially declared killed in action in May of 1991, the U.S. military had never even looked for him.

Somewhere in the arid, desolate desert of western Iraq, Speicher's F-18 crashed in darkness two hours after the war began.

Speicher was one of the best pilots on the aircraft carrier Saratoga. He wasn't supposed to fly on the first mission of the war but he refused to be left behind. "When it just came down to flying the missile, airplane, there was nobody like Spike," says Barry Hull, another pilot in Speicher's squadron. On January 17, Hull, Speicher, and 32 other pilots took off at 1:30 a.m. from the USS Saratoga in the Red Sea. They were supposed to suppress enemy air defenses west of Baghdad. It was a very dangerous mission. "The closer we got to Baghdad the more impressive the light show over Baghdad became," recalls Bob Stumpf, who was flying two planes away from Speicher. "It was just an incredible anti-aircraft barrage." Eight minutes from the target, Stumpf was startled by a huge flash in the sky. He assumed the blast was a missile but he didn't think that any planes had been hit.

The fighters continued toward the target and dropped their bombs. As they turned back toward the Saratoga, the pilots checked in over the radio. Speicher didn't check in. The pilots returned to the Saratoga just before dawn without him.

During their intelligence debriefings on the ship, Dave Renaud, who had been the closest pilot to Speicher, reported seeing explosions five miles away, in Speicher's direction, at the same time Stumpf had witnessed that large flash in the sky. Renaud reported the plane had been blown to bits. He even drew a little circle on his map where he thought he had seen the fireball.

"The first report was 'airplane disintegrated on impact; no contact with the pilot; we really don't believe that anyone was able to survive the impact,'" says Admiral Stan Arthur, commander of all Allied Naval Forces in the Persian Gulf.

A few hours after the first mission had returned to the ships, Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney held a press conference in Washington. On the basis of one account of a flash in the night sky and 12 hours of radio silence, Secretary Cheney declared Speicher dead.

To Stumpf, the pronouncement seemed premature. Why did Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney declare Speicher dead in the first hours of the Gulf War when there was no evidence to support it? Cheney declined to comment.

Admiral Arthur says that because the Navy wasn't sure where Speicher had gone down, no search and rescue mission was launched. But the captain of the Saratoga personally told Speicher's wife Joanne that "every effort continues to be made to locate Scott." A week later, Speicher's commanding officer sent this message to Joanne, "All, repeat, all, theater combat search and rescue efforts were mobilized." On March 7, 1991, right after the war, Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams assured Americans the military would continue to look for every missing soldier and flier.

When the POWs were released at the end of the war, Tony Albano, who was Speicher's roommate, was sent to Saudi Arabia in case Speicher was among the prisoners being freed. He didn't see Speicher. Weeks later, the Iraqis sent a pound and a half of flesh to the Americans, claiming it was the remains of a pilot named Michael. Speicher's first name was Michael and there was no other Michael among the missing. One DNA test and the case would be closed forever.

Then things got strange. That spring, Victor Weedn, a forensic pathologist, tested the flesh. He said it did not come from Speicher. Were Saddam and the Iraqis trying to hide something, or had they just made a mistake? Apparently no one asked, because the next day, May 7, the Navy began the process of officially declaring Speicher KIA. "I was a little surprised at that because our test report didn't show that he was dead," Weedn says.

Joanne Speicher was asked to sign off on this decision. She thought all search efforts had been exhausted, so she agreed. While most of the country was celebrating its victory, a private memorial service was being held in Arlington National Cemetery. There was no body. Speicher's case was closed. Then in December 1993 an Army general from Qatar came to the western Iraqi desert, 150 miles southwest of Baghdad. He and his party were hunting for rare falcons when they stumbled across an American F-18. The condition of the nose suggested the plane had not disintegrated in the air. The Qatari took pictures, and pieces of the plane, to the American Embassy in Doha, the Qatari capital. The photos and a piece of radar equipment were sent to Washington, where a check was run on the serial numbers. The results stirred the Pentagon. Nearly three years after the Gulf War, Speicher's jet had been located. The pictures showed that the canopy had come down away from the plane; this indicated that the pilot had tried to eject. The Pentagon went back and checked the satellite imagery it used to track Scud launches during the war. It found a crash site, with the outlines of a jet in the sand - Speicher's F-18. The crash spot was right where his fellow pilot had said it was. But despite three years of assurances, no one in the U.S. government or the military had ever bothered to look for Speicher's plane. Says Arthur: "You get this sinking feeling that there's something really wrong here, that you missed something."

Part II Years Later, Search For Flier Continues Is He Alive In Iraq? Investigators Will Now Try To Find Out (CBS) In April 1994, Admiral Stan Arthur, who sent Michael Scott Speicher into battle, wanted to launch a covert mission into Iraq to check out the crash site. But some Pentagon policy officials were concerned about casualties. They wanted to ask Saddam for permission to go to the site under the Red Cross flag. This approach enraged those who wanted the mission. "You don't preserve your options when you essentially announce to the Iraqi government that you know that you found a crash site, and you found something at the crash site that might lead you to conclude the pilot is alive," says Tim Connolly, who was then the deputy secretary of defense in charge of special operations as well as a Gulf War veteran with a Bronze Star. "Because if, in fact, the pilot is alive and being held by the Iraqis, the pilot isn't alive anymore." Connolly also wanted to launch a covert mission. Classified documents show that the chance of success for a secret mission was considered high. Connolly says that the area was very sparsely populated. At a meeting in December 1994 in the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense William Perry and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili, decided how to approach the site.

Connolly argued his case at the meeting. "I closed by saying, 'I will go out the door of this conference room and I will stand in the hall, and I will stop the first five people who walk by in military uniform, regardless of service or gender,'" Connolly recalls. "'I will explain to them what we are trying to do and ask them if they will get on the helicopter. And I will guarantee you that all five will get on the helicopter.' And then I shut my mouth. And the chairman said, 'I do not want to have to write letters home to the parents to tell them that their son or daughter died looking for old bones.'" The Pentagon nixed the covert mission. General Shalikashvili would not talk to us about his decision. On March 1, 1995, Saddam agreed to allow American experts to visit the crash site. But because of what Baghdad called 'unforeseen bureaucratic delays,' the Americans didn't visit for nine months.

When the U.S. team got there, they found the site had been tampered with. The cockpit was missing. The Iraqis had gotten there first. But the Americans found a plane that had not disintegrated in the sky. They found the canopy, which ejects with the pilot, about a mile from the aircraft. Spent flares and parts of a survival kit also were located. There was not a bone or a drop of blood or a trace of Michael Scott Speicher anywhere. But toward the end of their six-day search, the Americans found a tattered flight suit. Albano, who has examined the suit, thinks it is Speicher's. There were definite signs Speicher could have survived an ejection. But when the crash team returned the Pentagon said that there was no evidence that Speicher had survived. In fact, the investigators reported that the crash site provided no evidence Speicher had died. The Defense Department now grudgingly acknowledges this. "I don't believe we have any evidence that he's dead," says Connolly. But if Speicher survived the crash, why didn't he send a rescue call on his radio? Pilots are repeatedly drilled on the importance of keeping their radios with them at all times during crashes. It is the key to getting rescued. Minutes before Speicher took off, the pilots had been given new radios. These radios were larger than the previous models, and didn't fit in the vest pocket that had held the earlier models. Even before the mission, the size of the radios worried Ted Phagan, who was in charge of the pilots' radios. "As the pilots are walking out I'm telling them, 'you're gonna lose this radio if you have to eject,'" he recalls. Phagan thinks Speicher lost his radio when he ejected. (By the second launch, Phagan had fixed the problem with a new flap.) By mid-1996 even General Shalikashvili wrote to the CIA expressing his misgivings about Speicher's status. Speicher is still listed as 'Killed In Action.' But with mounting evidence that he survived the crash, and without any evidence that he died, U.S. intelligence agencies are launching a new search. Investigators aren't ruling out the possibility - slim though it might be - that Speicher could be alive in Iraq. American investigators say an Iraqi defector who had recently escaped to Jordan told them that in the first days of the war, he had driven an American pilot from the desert to Baghdad and the authorities. The pilot, he says, was alive, alert, and wearing a flight suit. The defector pointed Speicher out in a photo lineup, and passed two lie detector tests. The head of the Iraqi Air Force, General Khaldoun Khattab, says that Iraq freed all the prisoners after the war. "It's possible he was seriously injured after he ejected from the plane, and there are lots of wolves in the area," Khattab says. The case may never be solved. Admiral Arthur is tormented by the question of what happened to the flier. "My worst fear was what happens if someday he shows up in Baghdad on a TV screen and it's a surprise to everybody," says Arthur. "How would you explain that?"

Navy Changes Status of Gulf War Pilot Updated 7:14 PM ET January 10, 2001 This is an Undated Photo of Lt. Cmdr. Michael Speicher. (AP)

By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer WASHINGTON (AP) - In a highly unusual move, the Navy has changed the status of Lt. Cmdr. Michael Speicher, shot down in an F-18 fighter on the opening night of the 1991 Gulf War, from killed in action to missing, officials said Wednesday.

Navy Secretary Richard Danzig notified the Speicher family of the decision Wednesday, according to officials in the office of Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., who has long challenged the Pentagon's official "finding of death" for Speicher. The officials discussed the matter on condition they not be identified. Pentagon officials confirmed the information. Pentagon officials said Danzig acted because of substantial evidence that Speicher may not have died in the crash. "It's substantial in nature, in the totality," one official said. He would not elaborate. The official said the State Department sent a new diplomatic note to Baghdad demanding that the Iraqi government tell all it knows about Speicher's fate.

Last March, Smith and Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minn., asked Danzig to change Speicher's status to missing in action, reflecting evidence of doubt about whether he survived the crash. Smith met with Danzig again Dec. 20 on the matter, officials said. In a letter dated Dec. 18, Sandy Berger, President Clinton's national security adviser, told Smith a recent intelligence assessment "has stimulated a high-level review of this case - several new actions are under way and additional steps are under intense review." Berger's letter, which was provided to The Associated Press on Wednesday, did not specify what actions were contemplated.

Speicher, of Jacksonville, Fla., went missing when his Navy F-18 Hornet was shot down on Jan. 16, 1991, in an air-to-air battle with an Iraqi fighter. He was the first American lost in the war and the last still unaccounted for.

The late Adm. Mike Boorda, then the chief of naval operations, approved the official "finding of death" on May 22, 1991. That action changed his official status from missing in action to killed in action. In September 1998, after efforts by Smith and Grams to learn more about what U.S. intelligence agencies knew of Speicher's fate, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was given a classified chronology of the agencies' activities on the matter. "We strongly believe that the information contained therein supports the request we are making of you with this letter," Smith and Grams told Danzig in a letter last March. They did not cite any specific evidence, which is classified secret.

The senators said they were informed March 12 by the Defense Department's POW-Missing Personnel Office that its position on whether the available evidence indicates Speicher perished in the crash of his plane is, "We don't know." Smith and Grams have said before that Pentagon officials initially told them evidence had not been found to indicate that Speicher could have survived the crash. However, in May 1994 - more than three years after Speicher went missing - Pentagon officials indicated in a secret memorandum that a U.S. spy satellite had photographed a "manmade symbol" at the crash site earlier that year. Some military officers said they interpreted the symbol as a sign that the Navy pilot might have survived the crash. Speicher was the only American killed on Iraqi territory whose remains were not recovered. A plan was devised in 1994 to conduct a covert operation into Iraq to search the crash site for clues to Speicher's fate, but it was scrapped in December 1994 by Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The general ruled the risk of casualties was too high to justify the secret mission.

In 1995, U.S. crash site specialists from the Defense Department, working with the International Committee of the Red Cross, entered Iraq with President Saddam Hussein's permission. When they got to the crash site they found it had been excavated, The New York Times reported in December 1997.

US Changes Pilot Status to 'Missing' After Gulf War Updated 7:58 AM ET January 11, 2001 By Charles Aldinger WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In an unusual step, the Navy has decided to change the status of a U.S. fighter pilot shot down over Iraq early in the 1991 Gulf War from "killed in action" to "missing in action" because of evidence that he may have survived the crash, Navy officials said on Thursday.

Navy Secretary Richard Danzig on Wednesday notified relatives of Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher, who had been listed as killed since shortly after the war, according to the officials who asked not to be identified. Speicher became the first American lost on the first day of the air war when his Navy F-18 attack jet was apparently hit and crashed in a fireball during a battle with Iraqi jets on Jan. 17, 1991. Although no wreckage was initially found, defense officials said Pentagon documents showed U.S. spy satellites more than three years later detected what was described as a man-made symbol at the crash scene. They declined to give details. Although most of the information in the case is classified, officials said a flight suit that could have been Speicher's was more recently found lying on the surface of the desert. The New York Times reported on Thursday that the Defense Department intended to use Speicher's new "MIA" status to press Iraq for a full accounting on what might have happened to the pilot. In 1990, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ordered an invasion of neighboring Kuwait, triggering the Gulf War in which the United States led an allied force against Iraq. RESCUE CONSIDERED, REJECTED A senior Navy official said the move by Danzig was the latest step in a saga that began after a Navy review board approved listing Speicher as killed in action in May 1991 because there had been no communication from the pilot and no wreckage was initially found. "Since then, evidence has come in and things have now reached critical mass. We almost made the change three years ago, but we can do so now," the official told Reuters. Nearly three years after the jet was downed, a hunting party found the wreckage. The leader of the group, a military officer from another Gulf country, provided U.S. officials with photographs of the wreckage, according to the defense officials.

After the symbol was subsequently detected on the desert, officials said, there was a debate in high Pentagon military circles on whether to send a secret rescue mission to the area to search for the pilot. But the Times reported that then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. John Shalikashvili rejected such a move as too dangerous, they said. The Times said that the Pentagon instead sent investigators to the region under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross and with permission from Hussein. The officials confirmed to Reuters that the site had by then been excavated and that former Navy Secretary John Dalton in 1996 reaffirmed that Speicher, who had been based in Jacksonville, Florida, had been killed in the crash.


Houston Chronicle Wednesday, January 17, 2001 Pilot's MIA status based on sources, official says Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Navy's decision to change the status of Gulf War pilot Lt. Cmdr. Michael S. Speicher from killed in action to missing in action was based on intelligence information from several different sources, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.

Kenneth Bacon, spokesman for Defense Secretary William Cohen, said some of the information was received after the Navy reaffirmed in 1996 its previous determination that Speicher had been killed on an F- 18 combat mission over Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991.

Last week the Navy announced without explanation that it had switched Speicher's status to missing. At a Pentagon news briefing, Bacon was asked why the Navy had waited so long. "This has been a process of analysis and information collection that's been cumulative over a long period of time," Bacon said. "We have information from several different sources that I can't go into. All I can tell you is that it took a while to accumulate and analyze the information that led to this decision." He said some of the information had been developed since the 1996 decision, but he would not provide details.

U.S. officials said last week that intelligence agencies had received unconfirmed reports over a period of years that Speicher survived the shootdown of his F-18 and that an American believed to be Speicher had been seen in custody in Iraq after the war. There is no hard evidence that Speicher is alive, although President Clinton raised that possibility in saying last week "we're going to do our best to find out if he is alive and, if he is, to get him out."

On Monday, a senior Iraqi government official said a search in 1995 of the crash site in Iraq's western desert showed the pilot was killed without ejecting from the cockpit, though his remains were never found. Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz rejected suggestions by U.S. officials that Speicher might have survived and could still be alive.

Bacon, however, said U.S. officials doubt the Iraqis have told all they know about what happened to Speicher.

New Leads Emerge On Missing Flier Gulf War: U.S. senator says pilot downed in 1991 may have survived and that recent reports back idea he could have been taken prisoner by Iraqis.

By Paul Richter, Times Staff Writer Los Angeles Times; February 9, 2001

WASHINGTON--Recent publicity about the first U.S. casualty of the 1991 Persian Gulf War has loosed an outpouring of new leads in the mysterious case, including information that could support the notion that the flier survived his crash and was taken prisoner by the Iraqis, according to a U.S. lawmaker.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the leads have come to light since last month, when Navy Lt.Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher was officially reclassified from "killed in action" to "missing in action." The leads still need to be verified, Roberts said. But he added: "We're getting a better picture that he certainly did survive the crash. . . . The jigsaw puzzle of what happened to Michael Speicher is becoming more complete." Roberts declined to identify the sources of information except to say that people with knowledge of the case contacted U.S. authorities after the burst of worldwide media attention last month.

Some of the sources, however, may be similar to the émigré Iraqis who over the years have given U.S. authorities tips that a Navy flier fitting Speicher's description was captured, hospitalized and held prisoner in Baghdad. The U.S. government has been skeptical of some of those accounts. Intelligence officials declined to elaborate on the new information.

Speicher was on a mission to strike Iraqi radars on the first evening of the U.S. air assault on Iraq in January 1991. About 150 miles southwest of Baghdad, his F/A-18 Hornet was struck by an Iraqi-fired missile. Another U.S. flier said he saw Speicher's plane consumed in a fireball. Because the wingman saw no parachute open, and because the Navy received no radio signal from Speicher, officials assumed the flier was dead. The Navy did not conduct a search.

And in 1994, when a hunting party from Qatar found the wreckage of the plane, Pentagon officials--despite internal dissent--decided that they did not want to risk U.S. lives pursuing Speicher's remains. In 1995, a U.S. team visited the crash site with a Red Cross escort and the permission of the Iraqi government.

But the team found that the site had been dug up, presumably by the Iraqi government. Nevertheless, some clues suggested that Speicher had successfully ejected from the jet and survived the crash. A flight suit, apparently his, was found at a distance from the wrecked aircraft. And spy satellite photos showed man-made images on the desert floor, suggesting that Speicher, though unable to radio for help, might have tried to attract the attention of fellow U.S. pilots.

Some U.S. veterans, and lawmakers such as Roberts and Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.), have argued that the military hasn't pushed hard enough to solve the mystery of Speicher's fate.

U.S. officials, explaining the reclassification of Speicher, have said they still have no "hard evidence" that he is alive. And they say that many pieces of evidence are ambiguous or unverified. They say they had simply come to doubt that the earlier evidence, including the wingman's report, was sufficient to conclude that Speicher was killed in the crash.

The Iraqis have consistently contended that Speicher did not survive the crash. After the State Department last month called on the Iraqis to give a more complete accounting of the case, Iraq denounced the pressure. Roberts said he has talked about the case with Vice President Dick Cheney, who was defense secretary during the war, and Donald H. Rumsfeld, the current defense secretary, and found their interest "keen." Roberts said the United States continues to try to coax more information from the Iraqis.

Roberts acknowledged that it remains "very questionable" that Speicher is alive. But he said that some nights he wonders if Speicher wakes up in a Baghdad prison cell wondering, ' "Where is my country?' That's a haunting question."

Subject: POW Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001 16:49:54 -0700 To:

Please pass on the following information about the POW/MIA issue.

I have recently received a letter about a pilot, Lt Cmdr Michael Speicher, who was shot down in the Gulf War and is believed to be captured and held prisoner by Iraq. If any one has any information and documentation on personnel that may be POW/MIA during the Gulf War please contact the appropriate Senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee and Personnel subcommittee or Roger Hall, who will make sure it gets to the proper Senators. Roger Hall can be contacted: 8715 First Ave., Apt 827 C Silver spring, MD 20910 (301)585-3361 (301)587-5055 Original Message: To All concerned on America's POW: The 2001 Senate Intelligence Act included POWs coverage on cases going back to 1990. The Senate Intelligence bill originally included coverage of Vietnam era POWs, but the DOD fought this; when time ran out the Intelligence Committee had to settle on the 1990 limit. The limit does cover new live sighting reports on Vietnam cases received after 1990.

It was pointed out that the Senate Armed Services Committee and Personnel subcommittee have not been getting any support, positive feedback, or pressure on the Lt. Cmdr. Michael Speicher case from the veteran's organizations. There is a feeling among some Senator's that there is little interest being shown in the Speicher case or the POW issue. Some Senators see the Speicher case as the best possibility of a live POW, but there is no veteran support. Furthering the Speicher case is a goal itself, but doing so will also bring needed support for Vietnam era cases.

Without continued pressure on the Senate by the Legion and other veteran's groups nothing will be done. They need to hear Veteran's demands to do more, to account on what is being done for the return of Lt. Cmdr. Michael Speicher. Any help the Legion can bring to this important matter will help assure positive action by the committee for his safe return and not another remains case.

Sincerely, Roger Hall 8715 First Ave., apt 827C Silver Spring, MD 20910 301/585-3361 301/587-5055

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