Gulf War pi­lot Spe­icher de­clared MIA in 4th sta­tus change

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security - BY JEN­NIFER HARPER

In the first hours of the Gulf War, he flew his F-18 into the night skies from the deck of the USS Saratoga, never to re­turn, and never to be found. His air­plane was struck by an Iraqi sur­face-toair mis­sile.

U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Scott Spe­icher was the first Amer­i­can ca­su­alty of Op­er­a­tion Desert Storm in 1991 — but his dis­ap­pear­ance was any­thing but con­clu­sive.

Over the years, Capt. Spe­icher’s sta­tus was listed as killed in action, body not re­cov­ered; miss­ing in action; and miss­ing/cap­tured. Now it has changed for a fourth time.

On March 10, Navy Sec­re­tary Don­ald Win­ter re­verted Capt. Spe­icher’s sta­tus to miss­ing in action — coun­ter­ing a re­cent rec­om­men­da­tion by a sta­tus re­view board that the pi­lot still could be held by en­emy forces. But Mr. Win­ter did not close the case, ei­ther.

“My re­view of the board pro­ceed­ings and the com­pelling ev­i­dence pre­sented by the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity causes me great con­cern about the reli­a­bil­ity of the board’s rec­om­men­da­tion,” Mr. Win­ter said.

He ques­tioned the re­view board’s con­clu­sions about Capt. Spe­icher’s ejec­tion from his air­craft and the lack of phys­i­cal ev­i­dence or emer­gency ra­dio trans­mis­sions that could in­di­cate he sur­vived that night.

“There is cur­rently no cred­i­ble ev­i­dence that Cap­tain Spe­icher is ‘cap­tured.’ For Cap­tain Spe­icher to be in cap­tiv­ity to­day, one would have to ac­cept a mas­sive con­spir­acy of si­lence and per­fectly ex­e­cuted de­cep­tion that has lasted for over 18 years and that con­tin­ues to­day,” Mr. Win­ter said.

He has or­dered an­other re­view of the sit­u­a­tion within the next year. Mean­while, the U.S. is not aban­don­ing the pi­lot as a mat­ter of pol­icy.

“Ab­so­lutely, we will con­tinue to search for him. We have 88,000 miss­ing ser­vice mem­bers from all con­flicts. It is a top pri­or­ity to bring them home. Cap­tain Spe­icher is an Amer­i­can hero, and re­turn­ing him to his fam­ily and coun­try will also re­main a top pri­or­ity for the Navy and the na­tion,” said Lt. Sean Robert­son, a Navy spokesman.

“This is nei­ther good news nor bad news,” said Cindy Laquidara, spokes­woman for the Spe­icher fam­ily, who said she was some­what “puz­zled” by the de­ci­sion.

“We’re still op­ti­mistic. We want Cap­tain Spe­icher back — or his re­mains. And we look for­ward to work­ing with the Navy to re­solve this in the fore­see­able fu­ture. There was ev­i­dence Cap­tain Spe­icher was in cap­tiv­ity, and there are still those who may know what hap­pened. Ev­ery time we’ve had ac­tive-duty per­son­nel go search­ing for him, they have brought us good and valu­able in­for­ma­tion,” Ms. Laquidara said.

“They are very good at what they do,” she added.

A na­tive of Jack­sonville, Fla., and the son of a World War II-era pi­lot, Capt. Spe­icher was 33 when he dis­ap­peared, leav­ing be­hind a wife and two small chil­dren.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. Navy F-18 pi­lot Capt. Michael Scott Spe­icher

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