WASHINGTON | A U.S. fighter pilot lost nearly 20 years ago in the Persian Gulf War will continue to be listed as missing, according to the Navy, which no longer suspects that he was captured by Iraqi forces.
Navy officials informed lawmakers and Capt. Michael “Scott” Speicher’s family of Navy Secretary Donald Winter’s decision today.
Speicher, from outside Jacksonville, Fla., but who was born and educated in Kansas City, was initially declared killed when his FA-18 Hornet was shot down on the first night of the Gulf War in 1991. Dick Cheney, then the defense secretary, went on television and announced the U.S. had suffered its first casualty.
Speicher’s remains were never found, and the Navy ultimately changed his status to “missing/captured,” suggesting the Pentagon may have found evidence showing that he had been taken by enemy forces. The Pentagon never cited any such evidence publicly, however.
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Under the decision released today, the Navy would drop the “captured” listing from his status, changing it instead to “missing,” said Cindy Laquidara, an attorney representing Speicher’s family.
Speicher’s family has pressed to continue searching and feared the Pentagon was preparing to declare him killed.
“The most important thing to Scott, his family and the rest of the military world was that his status would remain MIA and that we’re not going to give up on our guys,” said Buddy Harris, former Navy commander and a close friend of Speicher’s who has since married Speicher’s ex-wife.