Skip to comments.Remains of Scott Speicher Found
Posted on 08/02/2009 3:53:52 PM PDT by bad company
WASHINGTON (AP) - The nearly two-decade-old question of what happened to Navy Capt. Michael "Scott" Speicher has been answered. The military says remains found in the Iraq desert have been identified as those of the pilot, whose plane was shot down on the first night of the 1991 Gulf War. The Pentagon says the remains were found after officials received new information from an Iraqi citizen last month, and were positively identified yesterday by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. The Pentagon initially declared Speicher killed, but changed his status to "missing in action" and later "missing-captured." His shattered plane was found in 1993. The 2003 invasion finally gave investigators the chance to search inside Iraq. That led to a number of new leads, including the discovery of what some believed were the initials "MSS" scratched into the wall of an Iraqi prison. Sen. Bill Nelson, a friend, was among those who pushed for a search for Speicher. Today, the Florida Democrat said, "We all clung to the slim hope that Scott was still alive and would one day come home to his family."
R.I.P., American hero.
WEST CENTRAL IRAQ - U.S. Marines have unearthed a remote desert grave in this war-torn country and found the remains of long-missing Navy pilot Capt. Michael Scott Speicher of Florida, according to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
The military unearthed the remains last month and flew them to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for identification. The discovery brings to an end a mystery that began in January 1991, on the first night of the first Gulf War.
That was the night Speichers plane was shot down. It was the night then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney took to the airwaves and declared him the first casualty of the battle to get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.
My heart goes out to the family, again, said Nelson, the Florida senator who was instrumental several years ago in getting the Navy to renew a search for the missing pilot. We all clung to the slim hope that Scott was still alive and would one day come home to his family.
Nelson said the pilots family Speichers wife and two children are from Jacksonville, Fla. were prepared for the alternative.
Speicher, 33, disappeared while flying a mission launched from the USS Saratoga. He was piloting a Navy F/A-18 Hornet that was struck by a missile fired by an Iraqi aircraft. He went down on Jan. 17, in a remote desert area of West Central Iraq.
Cheney declared the downed pilot dead during a soon-after televised news conference.
Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq twelve years later, Nelson pressed the Pentagon to renew a search for Speicher, based on evidence the pilot may survived the crash and been imprisoned. A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Nelson once visited a Baghdad prison cell where it was thought Speicher may have carved his initials in the wall.
Over the years, the military changed Speicher's status from dead to missing-captured, interviewed hundreds of Iraqi officials, and even excavated a different gravesite in Baghdad in 2005.
Only recently, a new informant told U.S. military officials in Iraq of another possible location of Speichers grave a site very near where his shattered airplane was found in 1993.
Acting on that information provided by an Iraqi in early July, Marines went to a location in the desert believed to be the crash site of Speichers jet. The informant told them he knew of two other Iraqis who recalled an American jet crashing in the desert and the pilot being buried there.
One of those Iraqis claimed to have been present when Bedouins found Speicher dead at the crash site and buried his body there. Speicher's remains were recovered over several days during the past week and flown to Dover Air Force Base for scientific identification by the military's medical examiner.
According to the Pentagon, the remains include bones and multiple skeletal fragments. Positive identification was made by comparing Speichers dental records with the jawbone recovered at the site.
Must of been so hard for his wife and children. His wife was recently remarried. Just imagine the torment of just not knowing.
I’m glad that he wasn’t found under Abu Ghraib or some other Iraqi prison. With mercy, he must have he died quickly.
Unfortunately, we can’t be sure of that. A team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) examined the crash site—at our request—in 1995. They found that the Iraqis had excavated the site a month before, and removed all cockpit debris from the site. To date, we don’t know exactly what was removed, and what it might reveal about Speicher’s fate.
Additionally, the ejection seat from the F/A-18 has never been recovered. Navy investigators and intel analysts believe that Captain Speicher initiated the ejection sequence and probably survived the shootdown. Additionally, we found his escape and evasion symbol (unique to him) scratched in the desert floor.
IAW established E&E procedures, the symbol was large enough to be seen from the air, meaning that it took Speicher several minutes to create it. The presence of the symbol also suggests that Captain Speicher was alone when he parachuted to earth, and felt comfortable enough to begin marking the symbol (if Iraqi troops or civilians were nearby, he would have almost certainly began evading).
Additionally, it’s worth noting that Speicher (and other allied pilots) did not carry any papers with the E&E symbol; the only way the Iraqis could have extracted that information—and etched it in the soil—was through torture.
In other words, we have evidence which suggests that Scott Speicher survived ejection and landed on the ground. At the time, he was in good enough shape to begin carving his E&E symbol, providing a clue for rescuers. That suggests that he was not seriously wounded by the ejection process. But sometime after he ejected, Captain Speicher was killed. How he died—and who was responsible for his death —has not been established.
The Bedouin’s story about finding a dead pilot at the crash site doesn’t offer a full explanation as to what happened. We owe it to Speicher’s family to provide a fuller accounting of the circumstances surrounding his death.
If I had to venture a guess, I’d say the Iraqi military arrived on the scene sometime after Speicher landed, murdered him, and left the body for the Bedouins to discover. The other possibility is the Bedouins betrayed him (it happened to other allied evaders) or simply killed him on their own.
Speicher's wife Joanne got remarried to Albert "Buddy" Harris on 4 July 1992, less than 18 months after Speicher was shot down.
Some reports contradict that claim.
I didn’t see anything in the newspapers about the symbol being a valid E&E symbol. How do we know it wasn’t just caused by shifting sands or some other natural event?