Name put to `Unknown Soldier'

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The Pentagon is preparing to disinter the corpse of the Vietnam War's Unknown Soldier and subject it to DNA identity tests after it emerged that the soldier might not be unknown at all.

According to a report on CBS television, the body appears to belong to Lieutenant Michael Blassie, a highly decorated young Air Force pilot whose aircraft was shot down over Vietnam in May 1972.

CBS said the airman's skeletal remains were found on October that same year along with an identity card bearing Lt Blassie's name. But the Pentagon told his relatives at the end of 1972 that he was missing, presumed dead. Suspicion arises that the United States military establishment has been involved in a bizarre cover-up.

For, unlike previous wars, Vietnam yielded few bodies that could not be identified, to bury at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns. Eventually one was found and on Memorial Day 1984 President Ronald Reagan presided over a ceremony where, choked with emotion, he asked: "As a child, did he play on some street in a great American city? ... Did he marry? Did he have children?"

The answers, if the Blassie family is proved right, are, in order: Yes, St Louis; no; and no.

Should tests prove Lt Blassie is the unknown soldier, his family say they want a headstone with his name put over his grave.