The remains of the first American shot down in the 1991 Persian Gulf War have been uncovered, the U.S. Department of Defense announced Sunday.
U.S. Navy Capt. Michael “Scott” Speicher was shot down in an F/A-18 Hornet on January 17, 1991, the first night of the war. The announcement early Sunday of the discovery of Speicher’s remains ends more than 18 years of speculation about whether Speicher may have survived the crash and been held captive, or died in captivity in the ensuing years. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Capt. Speicher’s family for the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a statement. “I am also extremely grateful to all those who have worked so tirelessly over the last 18 years to bring Capt. Speicher home.” An Iraqi civilian told U.S. forces in Iraq in early July about the location of the crash that killed Speicher, according to the statement. U.S. Marines in Anbar province went to the site and spoke to another Iraqi who told them he witnessed Bedouins burying Speicher’s remains in the desert after the crash, the statement said.
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A search of the area uncovered the remains, which were flown to Dover Air Base last week and positively identified as Speicher’s by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, the statement said. Recovered remains included bones and skeletal fragments, and positive identification was made by comparing Speicher’s dental records with a jawbone recovered at the site, the statement said. Speicher was a lieutenant commander when shot down, but because his status remained uncertain, he received promotions during the past 18 years, reaching the rank of captain. He was originally listed as “Killed-In-Action/Body-Not-Recovered” in May 1991. That status changed in 2001 to “Missing in Action,” and then to “Missing/Captured” in 2002 based on sighting reports inIraq. Those sightings have since been discredited. His status was changed back to MIA earlier this year. In the six years that the United States has been in Iraq for the second Gulf War, many leads and alleged sightings of Speicher have been investigated and found to be false. The Speicher family has worked closely with the Navy to ensure the hunt for him would not stop.