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Aug 2nd, 2009

Remains of U.S. Pilot Missing Since 1991 Found

Image: Navy Capt. Michael Scott
Navy file photo of Navy Capt. Michael “Scott” Speicher, the F/A-18 Hornet pilot who was shot down over Iraq on the opening night of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. (U.S. Navy Photo / Released)

Aug. 2, 2009

WASHINGTON — The remains of the first American lost in the Gulf War have been found in Iraq, the military said Sunday, a sorrowful resolution of a nearly two-decade old question about the fate of Navy Capt. Michael “Scott” Speicher.

The Pentagon said the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology on Saturday positively identified the remains, buried in the desert and located after officials received new information from an Iraqi citizen about a crash.

Speicher’s disappearance has bedeviled investigators since his fighter was shot down over the Iraq desert on the first night of the 1991 war. …

The Pentagon initially declared Speicher killed. But uncertainty — and the lack of remains — led officials over the years to change his status a number of times to “missing in action” and later “missing-captured.” The family Speicher left behind, from outside Jacksonville, Fla., continued to press for the military to do more to resolve the case.

Family spokeswoman Cindy Laquidara said relatives learned on Saturday that Speicher’s remains had been found.

“The family’s proud of the way the Defense Department continued on with our request” to not abandon the search, she said. “We will be bringing him home.”

Laquidara said the family would have another statement after being briefed by the defense officials; she did not know when that would be.

New leads

More than a decade after he was shot down in a combat mission, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 finally gave investigators the chance to search inside Iraq. That led to a number of new leads, including the discovery of what some believed were the initials “MSS” scratched into the wall of an Iraqi prison.

The search also led investigators to excavate a potential grave site in Baghdad in 2005, track down Iraqis said to have information about Speicher and make numerous other inquiries in what officials say was an exhaustive search.

Officials said Sunday that they got new information last month from an Iraqi citizen, prompting Marines stationed in the western province of Anbar to visit a location in the desert which was believed to be the crash site of Speicher’s FA-18 Hornet. …

The military recovered bones and multiple skeletal fragments and Speicher was positively identified by matching a jawbone and dental records, said Rear Adm. Frank Thorp.

He said the Iraqis told investigators that the Bedouins had buried Speicher. It was unclear whether the military had information on how soon Speicher died after the crash. …

Speicher was shot down over west-central Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991.

Hours after his plane went down, the Pentagon publicly declared him killed. Then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney went on television and announced the U.S. had suffered its first casualty of the war. But 10 years later, the Navy changed his status to missing in action, citing an absence of evidence that Speicher had died. In October 2002, the Navy switched his status to “missing/captured,” although it has never said what evidence it had that he ever was in captivity. …

Many in the military believed for years that Speicher had not survived the crash or for long after. Intelligence had never found evidence he was alive, and some officials felt last year that all leads had been exhausted and Speicher would finally be declared killed. …



Pilot’s remains found after 18 years (MSNBC, Aug. 2, 2009) — The remains of the first American military member to be lost in the Gulf War have been found in Iraq 18 years later. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports. (01:10)


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release
On the Web:
Media contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132

Public contact:
or +1 (703) 428-0711 +1
August 02, 2009

Remains Identified as Navy Captain Michael Scott Speicher

The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) has positively identified remains recovered in Iraq as those of Captain Michael Scott Speicher. Captain Speicher was shot down flying a combat mission in an F/A-18 Hornet over west-central Iraq on January 17th, 1991 during Operation Desert Storm.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Captain Speicher’s family for the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country,” said Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy. “I am also extremely grateful to all those who have worked so tirelessly over the last 18 years to bring Captain Speicher home.”

“Our Navy will never give up looking for a shipmate, regardless of how long or how difficult that search may be,” said Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Captain Speicher and his family for the sacrifice they have made for our nation and the example of strength they have set for all of us.”

Acting on information provided by an Iraqi citizen in early July, US Marines stationed in Al Anbar Province went to a location in the desert which was believed to be the crash site of Captain Speicher’s jet.

The Iraqi citizen stated he knew of two Iraqi citizens who recalled an American jet impacting the desert and the remains of the pilot being buried in the desert. One of these Iraqi citizens stated that they were present when Captain Speicher was found dead at the crash site by Bedouins and his remains buried. The Iraqi citizens led US Marines to the site who searched the area.

Remains were recovered over several days during the past week and flown to Dover Air Force Base for scientific identification by the AFIP’s Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner.

The recovered remains include bones and multiple skeletal fragments. Positive identification was made by comparing Captain Speicher’s dental records with the jawbone recovered at the site. The teeth are a match, both visually and radiographically.

While dental records have confirmed the remains to be those of Captain Speicher, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology DNA Lab in Rockville, Maryland is running DNA tests on the remains recovered in Iraq and comparing them to DNA reference samples previously provided by family members. Results will take approximately 24 hours.

A high-resolution photo of Captain Speicher is available at

Contact:  Navy Public Affairs (703) 697-5342.


8/14/09 Update


Remembering the Gulf War’s first casualty (MSNBC, Aug. 14, 2009) — NBC’s Michelle Kosinski reports on the memorial service for Navy pilot Scott Speicher, whose remains were found 18 years after his jet was shot down during the first Gulf War. (02:17)


11/28/09 Update

Twists, turns delayed finding pilot killed in Iraq (AP, Nov. 28, 2009) — Case was tangled by U.S. error, mistaken belief that Saddam concealed information. …

Full report


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago Today — August 2, 2008

On the Campaign Trail: Day 19

One year ago today, on the 19th day of my campaign against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, I  walked in the Albany Heritage Day Parade with my daughter and youngest son while my two older sons attended a youth baseball clinic and a Minnesota Twins game at the Metrodome (some things are more important than politics).

Matt and Tim at the Metrodome for a Twins game, summer 2007

In our no-frills, self-financed campaign, the signs were hand-made and the t-shirts mass-produced gotImmelman? products dedicated to 2008 Masters golf champion (and distant relative) Trevor immelman?

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