The Firearms Forum banner

1 - 1 of 1 Posts

·
*VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*
Joined
·
26,120 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
ON THIS DAY

On May 28, 1984, President Reagan led a state funeral at Arlington National Cemetery for an unidentified American soldier killed in the Vietnam War.

Michael Blassie: unknown no more - National Library of Medicine ...

Stripped Medal Of Honor From Vietnam Unknown Soldier
By Bonnie Edwards
U.S. Veteran Dispatch
June-October 1998 Issue

Last August, the U. S. Department of Defense officially stripped the Medal of Honor from Air Force Lt. Michael J. Blassie. He was the Vietnam veteran whose remains lay in the Tomb of the Unknowns for 14 years until May 14 when the government was forced to open the tomb for DNA testing.

On July 8, an Armed Forces Identification Review Board certified a finding by DNA experts that the Vietnam Unknown was Lt. Blassie.

A military honor guard picked up his remains on July 9 from an Air Force mortuary at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. and drove them to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be returned to his family in St. Louis, Missouri.

Lt. Blassie was buried again with full military honors in a national cemetery in St. Louis on July 10.

His remains had been in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery since Memorial Day 1984.

On that day, President Ronald Reagan presided over a ceremony at the Tomb during which he awarded the Medal of Honor to the supposedly unidentifiable remains of a U.S. serviceman who lost his life in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam era and who had been selected to be interred as the Vietnam Unknown Soldier.

The Medal of Honor is the highest military award and is normally presented by the President in the name of Congress to a person who while in service to the United States "distinguishes himself or herself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy force."

Usually, the medal is awarded only after the recipient has been nominated by his or her commanders and whose heroic deeds were witnessed by others.

To legalize awarding the Medal of Honor to an Unknown Soldier, whose actions in combat or deeds of valor, if any, would also obviously be unknown, Congress created and passed a special law authorizing the President to make the presentation.

In the case of the Vietnam Unknown, Congress passed that special authorization (Public law H.R. 5515) just a few days prior to the Vietnam Unknown being interred.

The law reads: "A bill to authorize the President to award the Medal of Honor to the unknown American who lost his life while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam era and who has been selected to be buried in the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery."

The Blassie family asked for the Medal of Honor to remain with Lt. Blassie. They argued that the medal was presented to Lt. Blassie while he was serving as the Vietnam Unknown Soldier and that because it was awarded for that service the medal should not be stripped from him.

Secretary Of Defense William Cohen quickly took a public position against the Blassie family's request. He argued publicly that because Lt. Blassie had been posthumously awarded the Silver Star he did not deserve the Medal of Honor. Lt. Blassie received several other awards for acts of bravery during combat. He died while on his 132nd mission, just four months after arriving in South Vietnam. He was killed when his A37 attack jet was shot down during a heated battle over An Loc, South Vietnam on May 11, 1972

Representatives of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) opposed Lt. Blassie's family having the medal because Lt. Blassie had not been nominated by his commanders for "performing high acts of valor."

"What would be nice is if the family withdrew the request," Phil Budahn of the American Legion told USA Today. "Their loved one is a hero to them and to many of us. But the Medal of Honor is something very, very special and it simply was not awarded to this particular hero."

But there is a precedent where at least one other Medal of Honor was awarded for meritorious service instead of valor.

During the Civil War, upon the recommendation of Major Generals Sherman and Thomas, Dr. Mary E. Walker received the Medal of Honor because of her "valuable service to the government" while assigned to duty as an assistant surgeon in charge of female prisoners at Louisville, Kentucky.

Dr. Walker's medal was rescinded in 1917 along with 910 others because, according to a special government panel, their deeds did not meet the criteria of "gallantry at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against the enemy."

President Jimmy Carter restored the Medal of Honor to Dr. Walker in 1977 after being encouraged to do so by women's advocacy groups.

In any case, the Unknown Soldier Medal of Honor was a special administrative medal created by Congress specifically to be awarded to the Unknown Soldier. It had nothing to do with valor and it was awarded to Lt. Blassie.

In the July 1994 issue of the U.S. Veteran Dispatch, Ted Sampley, the Dispatch's publisher, first broke the story that the "unknown" Vietnam veteran in the Tomb of the Unknowns was Lt. Blassie. Sampley challenged the government to use DNA evidence to lay the matter to rest.

Sampley, a former Green Beret and highly decorated Vietnam veteran who is head of the Last Firebase Veterans Archives Project, found Lt. Blassie by comparing Pentagon records to information collected by the Last Firebase and stored in its prisoner of war/missing in action (POW/MIA) files.

He discovered that the remains the U.S. government Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii (CIL-HI) had chosen to be the Vietnam Unknown had been found by a South Vietnamese Army reconnaissance team in late 1972 near An Loc, Binh Long Province, which is located 60 miles north of Saigon.

The remains consisted of six bones _ four ribs, a pelvis and a humerus (or only 3% of a skeleton) — and were given the number X-26 by CIL-HI.

Along with the X-26 remains, the reconnaissance team had brought in the remnants of a parachute, a flight suit, a pistol holder and a one man inflatable raft.

Sampley also discovered that X-26 was a Caucasian man who had been between 26 and 36 years old at the time of death and that in the surrounding area of An Loc where X-26 had been found, there had been numerous American servicemen reported missing in action, bodies not returned.

There were at least two C130s, several helicopters and an A37 fighter jet that went down in that general area during the war prior to the Fall of 1972.

Sampley wrote in the July 1994 U.S. Veteran Dispatch: "The remnants which were found with the bone fragments of X-26 are important pieces of a puzzle which when placed together point specifically to the identification of the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War.

"The piece of a flight suit indicates that the Vietnam Unknown was an airman and evidence of the existence of a parachute rules out the possibility of a helicopter crew, thus focusing on the air crews of the C130s and the pilot of the lone A37.

"The existence of a one man inflatable raft can be argued as a strong reason to rule out the crews of the C130s, leaving only the pilot of the A37, who would have been equipped with a one man raft. Many facts pertaining to 1Lt. Michael J. Blassie's shoot down closely match those of the Unknown Soldier."

In May 1972, near An Loc, an A37, flown by Lt Blassie, was hit by ground fire. Lt. Blassie's wing man saw him crash into the ground and witnessed an explosion and fire. He did not see any signs that indicated the survival of Lt. Blassie.

In October, 1972, the U.S. government sent a search team to the crash site (probably in response to the remains recovered by the South Vietnamese reconnaissance team) and found "identification media that correlated to the case."

In July 1994 after Sampley had finished his research and before he printed his conclusions in the U.S. Veteran Dispatch, he phoned Jean Blassie, the pilot's mother who was living in Missouri and told her what he had discovered.

Soon after publication of his conclusions, he hand delivered a copy of the Dispatch to Pentagon officials.

Lt. Blassie's sister Pat read the Dispatch article which identified her brother as the Vietnam Unknown. She contacted the Air Force but was told there was nothing to substantiate the claim. The Pentagon assured the Blassie family that Sampley's information was not correct.

Two years later, Sampley reprinted the Lt. Blassie story in the July 1996 issue of the Dispatch and posted the story on the Dispatch's Internet web page..

CBS News Producer Vince Gonzales picked up the Lt. Blassie story from the Internet and contacted Sampley requesting information that would back his claim. Sampley faxed Gonzales his information and sources.

Gonzales' subsequent eight month investigation led CBS to conclude that not only were the remains in the Tomb of the Unknowns those of Lt. Blassie, but that the Pentagon had known it all along.

CBS reported January 1998: "A seven-month CBS News investigation has revealed that the identity of that unknown soldier is almost certainly known and that some military officials, for whatever reason, knew it all along and tried to hide it . . . two technicians who worked in the Hawaii Army lab told CBS that they knew the remains were almost surely Blassie's, and their bosses knew it. They protested the decision to `un-identify' the remains. They said they did not wish to be identified out of fear of reprisals."

CBS neglected to mention publicly that Sampley was the original source of their information.

Sampley's persistence, however, did gain him an accolade from an unlikely source: a "laurel" in the "Darts & Laurels" column of the highly regarded Columbia Journalism Review for his reporting on the remains of an "unknown" Vietnam veteran.

The Columbia Journalism Review noted in its March-April 1998 issue, "Thus legitimized by a mainstream media outlet, the story triggered a national outcry to set things right."

But have things been set right?

Credible information proves that when Pentagon officials chose the Vietnam Unknown in 1984, they knew that the remains were probably those of Lt. Blassie.

The Pentagon argues that it was all an innocent mistake and that they were only able to identify Blassie because of the DNA tests.

But Sampley says the Pentagon's response is "hogwash." He points out that he identified Lt. Blassie without benefit of DNA.

"The simple cold truth is that Pentagon officials bowed to political pressure and faked the Vietnam Unknown Soldier," Sampley said. "As has been done so many times, the POW/MIA issue was manipulated for a political agenda."

"As for the Pentagon's DNA excuse," Sampley said, "during the last decade, the Pentagon has used less circumstantial evidence than was available to identify Lt. Blassie (no DNA tests) to write off hundreds of other missing in action servicemen as dead and identified. Some MIA families were forced to bury as little as a tooth fragment."

In the case of Lt. Blassie, the Pentagon not only knew that his remains were in the Tomb of the Vietnam Unknown Soldier but went to great effort to hide the fact from his family.

That fact alone means that Pentagon officials knew that when the government awarded the Medal of Honor to the Unknown Soldier it was in actuality being awarded to Lt. Blassie because they knew his identity.

And for more than 14 years, the military brass allowed his family to suffer the pains of not knowing whether Lt. Blassie was dead or being held prisoner by the Communists Vietnamese.

By stripping the Medal of Honor from Lt. Blassie, the Pentagon has added further to the pain of MIA families by pouring salt into an already open wound and has brought disgrace upon this great nation that veterans from all wars have fought to preserve.

Sadly, the leadership of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion supported the Pentagon's decision to take the Medal of Honor from Lt. Blassie. The veteran leaders claimed that to leave the nation's highest award with Lt. Blassie now that he has been officially identified would forever compromise the integrity of the Medal of Honor.

However, those same veterans have remained suspiciously quiet about the Pentagon's dishonor of the Unknown Soldiers from all wars by faking the Vietnam Unknown.

The veterans have raised no questions about the government's lack of honesty and integrity, and they have not questioned why and how the cover up continued through three Presidential administrations.
 
1 - 1 of 1 Posts
Top