The remains of the first American lost in the Persian Gulf War have been found in Iraq, the military said today, after struggling for nearly two decades with the question of whether he was dead or alive.
The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology has positively identified the remains of Captain Michael "Scott" Speicher, whose disappearance has bedeviled investigators since his jet was shot down over the Iraq desert on the first night of the 1991 war.
The top Navy officer said the discovery illustrates the military's commitment to bring its troops home.
"Our Navy will never give up looking for a shipmate, regardless of how long or how difficult that search may be," said Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations. "We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Captain Speicher and his family for the sacrifice they have made for our nation and the example of strength they have set for all of us."
The Pentagon initially declared Speicher killed, but uncertainty — and the lack of remains — led officials over the years to change his official status a number of times to "missing in action" and later "missing-captured."
After years, the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq finally gave investigators the chance to search inside Iraq. And it led to a number of leads, including what some believed were the initials "MSS" scratched into the wall of an Iraqi prison.
The search also led investigators to excavate a potential grave site in Baghdad in 2005, track down Iraqis said to have information about Speicher and make numerous other inquiries in what officials say has been an exhaustive search.
Officials said Sunday that they got new information from an Iraqi citizen in early July, leading Marines stationed in Anbar province to a location in the desert which was believed to be the crash site of Speicher's jet.
The Iraqi said he knew of two other Iraqis who recalled an American jet crashing and the remains of the pilot being buried in the desert.
"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," the Pentagon said in a statement.
He was positively identified through a jawbone found at the site and dental records, said Read Adm. Frank Thorp.