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Navy changes status of missing pilot

Speicher shot down over Iraq during Gulf War

From Mike Mount
CNN Washington

Gulf War pilot Scott Speicher is now listed as missing-captured.
Gulf War pilot Scott Speicher is now listed as missing-captured.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The status of missing Gulf War pilot Michael "Scott" Speicher was changed Friday from "missing in action" to "missing-captured," according to a Navy memorandum.

Navy Secretary Gordon England signed the order Friday in what has been a long anticipated move.

Earlier this year, Pentagon officials said that Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz wanted Speicher's status to be changed from MIA to missing-captured because the implication, according to one military officer, is that the change "will become another reason to bomb Iraq."

In his memorandum Friday, England said, "It is my firm belief that the government of Iraq knows what happened to Captain Speicher."

Speicher was shot down over Iraq in January 1991 during the early hours of the Gulf War and was listed as "missing in action" the following day.

Since that time there have been numerous reports about the fate of the pilot, but there has been no solid evidence to indicate what happened to him. His status was eventually changed to "killed in action." He was promoted to captain earlier this year.

There has been continuous analysis of the Speicher case by the U.S. government, including an excavation of the wreckage of his jet.

The previous secretary of the Navy, Richard Danzig, was very involved in the Speicher case and changed Speicher's status from "killed in action, body not recovered" to "missing in action" in hopes that it would increase the likelihood that the Iraqi government would provide details of Speicher's whereabouts.

According to Friday's memorandum, England's decision to change Speicher's status was based on the following factors:

  • Analysis of the wreckage concluded that Speicher survived the initial damage to the aircraft and ejection.
  • The flight suit found near the wreckage and turned over by the Iraqis showed no signs of a crash impact, as it would have if the pilot had been in the plane when it hit.
  • The Red Cross team that investigated the wreckage reported that the cockpit had been expertly dismantled.
  • Cumulative information received since Speicher was shot down continues to strongly suggest that the Iraqi government can account for him.
  • "Like Secretary Danzig, I have no evidence to conclude that Captain Speicher is dead," England said in the memo released Friday.

    "Changing Speicher's status to 'missing-captured' is the most appropriate designation for him," the memo added.

    "While the information available to me now does not prove definitively that Captain Speicher is alive and in Iraqi custody, I am personally convinced the Iraqis seized him sometime after his plane went down," England said.

    Speicher's file continued to go through promotional boards as a standard procedure for missing personnel.

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