President Donald J. Trump recently scored a major political accomplishment in Vietnam regarding on-going POW/MIA efforts in Southeast Asia (SEA) stemming from the Vietnam War that the mass media and many Vietnam veterans organizations are apparently ignoring.

After remaining reticent for nearly a year on the topic of finding, identifying and returning to America the remains of 1,602 Americans missing in SEA from the Vietnam War, Trump spoke out on the issue at least twice while visiting Vietnam last month following the Asia Pacific Economic Conference in Da Nang.

[At this time, it’s unknown if anyone told Trump that the hotel site where that conference was held in Da Nang, is the former location of the top-secret base of operations called Command and Control North, which was one of several bases used during the deadly eight-year secret war in Vietnam run under the aegis of the top-secret Military Assistance Command Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group. Green Berets ran top-secret missions into N. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from the MACV-SOG bases.]

Before flying north to Hanoi, Trump held a press conference where he said,

Our accountability efforts in Vietnam are very, very important to all of us. We will not rest until all of the (1,602) missing (American) veterans are returned home. I want to thank the government of Vietnam for (its) assistance in our efforts.”

In Hanoi, after bi-lateral meetings, Trump returned to the POW/MIA issue:

Our decades-long joint humanitarian efforts with the Vietnamese people and government to account for and recover personnel still missing – so important to us – from the war, honors these horrors of this horrendous war. We want our service members’ support – and we give total support to the families, and we strengthen the foundation of our comprehensive partnership. That is so important to us.”

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One of the few agencies paying attention to the president’s remarks was the National League of POW/MIA Families which shared his quotes with its membership. League CEO and Chairman of its board of directors Ann Mills-Griffiths said,

President Trump’s trip to Vietnam brought the first inclusion of POW/MIA accounting on the agenda as a priority of the new Administration and the first known mention by our president concerning priority on accounting for our unreturned veterans, America’s POW/MIAs.
It is reassuring that Trump Administration officials are now willing to listen and learn about the mission which the League has officially pursued since May 28, 1970, and for many POW/MIA families, for over 50 years.”

Kelly K. McKeague, director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), said that,

President Trump’s acknowledgments of the critical POW/MIA mission and the U.S. Government’s commitment to it also speak to the public diplomacy contributions these humanitarian efforts have made throughout several decades,”

McKeague also indicated,
Along with other U.S. veterans, two of our Hanoi-based military personnel attended a Veterans Day ceremony with President Trump in Danang.  Our team was privileged to share with the President DPAA’s field activities in Vietnam and dedication to provide answers to families of our missing heroes.”
On another positive note, Mills-Griffiths said that key Vietnamese government officials recently said for the first time in more than 47 years that there were,
… no longer any restrictions on the number of U.S. personnel who could work in-country simultaneously, affirming flexibility in field operations and that there are no longer any areas restricted to U.S. access … including previously sensitive areas along the northern coastal provinces.”

That unprecedented development occurred Oct. 15 when Mills-Griffiths met with Vietnam’s Vice Minister of National Defense Senior LTG Nguyen Chi Vinh prior to the Oct. 17 bilateral Defense Dialogue session in Washington. The vice minister repeated those promises later in the session. It’s a major step forward. Since 2009, Vietnamese officials have increased their efforts to cooperate more with U.S. officials. Some observers have noted that previous DPAA administrations failed to appreciate Vietnamese officials positive steps towards in that direction.

Last, but certainly not least, in a National League of POW/MIA Families report dated Dec. 7, Mills-Griffiths pointed out two other significant advances and improvements offered by Vietnam:

  1. Vietnam gave formal approval for a Defense Intelligence Agency Stony Beach specialist to be permanently assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi. Mills-Griffiths said, “The Stony Beach Team is comprised of highly trained specialists, language capable and culturally familiar investigators, able to augment DPAA Investigation Teams, as they have done effectively for years despite having to rotate on a temporary basis in and out of Vietnam. This decision by Vietnam’s leadership is most welcome and deeply appreciated…”
  2. Vietnam has committed its navy, coast guard and maritime services to work with DPAA officials in coastal areas searching for downed aviators remains in SEA.

Trump’s high visibility on this issue was reinforced two months ago when Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, thanked city officials from Ho Chi Minh City, in their assistance searching for the remains of U.S. servicemen missing in action during the Vietnam War.

In an Oct. 27 meeting in Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Nguyễn Thành Phong, Harris reiterated the U.S. commitment to press forward with humanitarian aid and the settlement of dioxin consequences in Vietnam. In November, Trump reaffirmed those commitments.

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Mike Taylor, chairman of the Joint Special Operations Association/Special Forces Association POW/MIA Committee said,
Prior to President Trump’s remarks in Vietnam, the Joint Special Operations Association/Special Forces Association POW/MIA Committee had been working in parallel with the National League of POW/MIA Families to impress upon the Trump Administration how important mention of the accounting mission could be to sustaining efforts toward the fullest possible accounting of our missing and unaccounted-for brothers-in-arms.
We were gratified to hear these important remarks and hope to hear more of the same from other senior officials.”

 

Editor’s note: if you would like to read more from John Stryker Meyer, check out his book “SOG Chronicles: Volume One” here on Amazon — there he sheds light on the untold stories of Green Berets behind enemy lines in Vietnam, conducting harrowing missions with little to no support.

Featured image: President Donald Trump, center, and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, center right, arrive for the bilateral meeting at the Presidential Palace, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Hanoi, Vietnam. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)