Friday, August 14, 2009

The Search Goes On

The funeral motorcade of Capt Scott Speicher departs NAS Jacksonville earlier today (WJXT-TV photo).

Eighteen years after he disappeared in Iraq, Navy Captain Scott Speicher was finally laid to rest this afternoon. The Navy F/A-18 pilot, shot down on the first night of Operation Desert Storm, was listing as "missing" or "captured" for two decades until Marine search teams found his remains in the Iraqi desert. That discovery--made two weeks ago at a location near the wreckage of his downed fighter--set in motion the homecoming that concluded today in Jacksonville.

But, as we note in our new column for, many questions about Scott Speicher's fate remain unanswered. Did he survive ejection from his F/A-18 (as most experts believe)? Did he carve that evasion sign into the desert floor--a symbol known only to Speicher and members of his unit? How did he wind up at the location where his remains were found? Did he die at that spot from combat or ejection-related injuries, or was he executed by Saddam's troops, and deliberately buried at that site?

The Speicher family plans to continue their quest for answers, but the Pentagon seems less determined. Two weeks ago, when DoD announced recovery and identification of the missing pilot's remains, the Speichers said their private inquiry would continue. That suggests that DoD is preparing to close the books on the Speicher file; that action (in our estimation) would be premature.

1 comment:

Ed Rasimus said...

As a combat aviator, I feel comfortable commenting. America has always expended great effort to recover crew-members downed on missions. Unfortunately we've got a long history as well of mistakes with regard to decision making and family notification.

By that I mean well-intentioned actions which raise false hope. Admittedly in the chaos of WW II and Korea, there were a lot of surprises at repatriation time. This led to a practice of withholding declarations of KIA and a preference for MIA status. Hope was maintained, pay and benefits were continued, and a KIA declaration could always come later.

I saw it done dozens of times when I was in the F-105 business and we were losing several guys a week for months on end. On-scene wingmen reported unsurvivable losses with no ejection attempt, yet they were reported as unknown status.

The long-term result was a cadre of hopeful family members denying the eventual reality and a virtual industry in rumor, protest, demand for action, and eventually conspiracy accusations.

I'm comfortable that all known missing aircrew members from SEA have been recovered, repatriated or accounted for. I have known and discussed this with dozens of ex-POWs who concur.

Yet, we always look for something else, and in the process families never give up hope only to prolong their agony.

I don't know the solution, but after 18 years I'm willing to recommend that we let Cmdr. Speicher rest in peace.