Body of missing Desert Storm pilot found in Iraq

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Captain Michael Speicher, USN
Image: United States Navy.

The remains of Michael "Scott" Speicher, the first American serviceman to be shot down in the Persian Gulf War, have been discovered in Iraq after an 18-year search. Speicher, a Captain in the United States Navy, was flying over Iraq on January 17, 1991, when the Gulf War began. That night, his plane was shot down and he disappeared.

After the crash, there had been much confusion about the status of the downed pilot. Speicher had originally been declared dead by the Army, but since there were no remains found, the Pentagon eventually declared Speicher missing in action. After this, his official status was slightly changed, and was missing-captured, then changed back to missing in action again until today's discovery.

Once the current war in Iraq began, searches for Speicher's body began again. In 2003 and 2005, Army members searched a prison in Iraq and a graveyard in Baghdad, respectively, but found no definitive proof of any remains at those locations.

Last month, Army officials stated that an Iraqi citizen gave new information possibly leading to the remains of Speicher's body. This led a group of Marines into Iraq's province of Anbar, where more citizens told them that the remains were buried after the crash. The Marines were directed to what was believed to be the site of the crash, and found Speicher's remains there. According to the Pentagon, "One of these Iraqi citizens stated that they were present when Captain Speicher was found dead at the crash site by Bedouins and his remains buried." Speicher was awarded the rank of captain posthumously.

The remains were identified by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, where a jaw bone was traced to Speicher. "I am...extremely grateful to all those who have worked so tirelessly over the last 18 years to bring Capt. Speicher home," said US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.