Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Michael Scott Speicher

Jacksonville, Florida

January 17, 1991

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
33 Navy LCDR

USS SARATOGA

 Shot down over western Iraq while piloting his F-18 Hornet.

DoD Release August 7, 2009

Speicher Search Details Announced

The Navy announced today additional details regarding the recent discovery of the remains of Navy Capt. Michael “Scott” Speicher in Iraq. Speicher was shot down flying a combat mission in an F/A-18 Hornet over west-central Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991, during Operation Desert Storm.

Acting in part on information provided by an Iraqi citizen in early July, Multi National Force – West’s (MNF-W) personnel recovery team went to a location in the desert which was believed to be the crash site of Speicher’s jet. The Iraqi, a Bedouin, was 11 years old at the time of the crash and did not have direct knowledge of where Speicher was buried, but knew of other Bedouins who did. He willingly provided his information during general discussion with MNF-W personnel and stated he was unaware of the U.S. government’s interest in this case until queried by U.S. investigators in July 2009. 

The Iraqi citizens led MNF-W’s personnel recovery team to the area they believed Speicher was buried. The area where the remains were recovered was located approximately 100 kilometers west of Ramadi, in Anbar province. There were two sites that teams searched. One site was next to the downed aircraft that was discovered in 1993 and the other site was approximately two kilometers away. The second site was where Speicher’s remains were recovered.

The recovery personnel searched two sites from July 22-29. The personnel recovery team consisted of approximately 150 people, mostly Marines and other forces under MNF-W.

The recovered remains include bones and multiple skeletal fragments. Based on visual examination of the remains and dental records at the site, a preliminary assessment was reached that the remains were that of Speicher. After searching the site another day, no further remains were recovered.

On July 30, the remains were turned over from the recovery team to MNF-W mortuary affairs at Al Asad. The remains were then transported to the Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover Air Force Base, Del. They were examined by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology’s (AFIP) Armed Forces medical examiner who positively identified them as those of Speicher on Aug. 1.

Positive identification by AFIP was made by comparing Speicher’s dental records with the jawbone recovered at the site. The teeth were a match, both visually and radiographically. AFIP’s DNA Lab in Rockville, Md., confirmed the remains to be Speicher on Aug. 2 via DNA comparison tests of the remains by comparing them to DNA reference samples previously provided by family members.

Remains Identified as Navy Captain Michael Scott Speicher 08/02/09

The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) has positively identified remains recovered in Iraq as those of Captain Michael Scott Speicher. Captain Speicher was shot down flying a combat mission in an F/A-18 Hornet over west-central Iraq on January 17th, 1991 during Operation Desert Storm.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Captain Speicher's family for the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country," said Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy. "I am also extremely grateful to all those who have worked so tirelessly over the last 18 years to bring Captain Speicher 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.”

Acting on information provided by an Iraqi citizen in early July, US Marines stationed in Al Anbar Province went to a location in the desert which was believed to be the crash site of Captain Speicher’s jet. The Iraqi citizen stated he knew of two Iraqi citizens who recalled an American jet impacting the desert 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 Iraqi citizens led US Marines to the site who searched the area. Remains were recovered over several days during the past week and flown to Dover Air Force Base for scientific identification by the AFIP’s Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner.

The recovered remains include bones and multiple skeletal fragments. Positive identification was made by comparing Captain Speicher’s dental records with the jawbone recovered at the site. The teeth are a match, both visually and radiographically.

While dental records have confirmed the remains to be those of Captain Speicher, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology DNA Lab in Rockville, Maryland is running DNA tests on the remains recovered in Iraq and comparing them to DNA reference samples previously provided by family members. Results will take approximately 24 hours. 

AP News 08/02/09:

Remains of US pilot missing 18 years in Iraq found
8/2/2009, 3:48 a.m. PDT
PAULINE JELINEK
The Associated Press 

(AP) — WASHINGTON - The U.S. Navy says remains of the first American lost in the 1991 Persian Gulf War have been found in Iraq.

Officials say 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 war.

The Pentagon initially declared him killed, but uncertainty led officials over the years to change his official status a number of times to "missing in action" and "missing-captured."

Officials say they got new information from Iraqi citizens last month that led them to a place in the desert believed to be the crash site-and there they found the remains.

*

Scott Speicher was raised in Kansas City. When he was in high school, the Speicher family moved to Jacksonville, Florida. Scott continued his education at Florida State University, receiving a degree in accounting and management. Speicher went on to join the U.S. Navy and receive flight training. During the Mid-East Crisis, Speicher was one of 2,500 airmen assigned to the USS SARATOGA in the Red Sea. Speicher was part of a fighter squadron and flew the F18 "Hornet" fighter/bomber.

On January 18, 1991, Speicher's aircraft was hit by an Iraqi SAM (surface-to-air missile) and crashed during the first Coalition offensive of the war dubbed "Operation Desert Storm." Initial reports by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney stated that Speicher had been killed. One military source said reports indicated the aircraft had "exploded to bits" in the sky, apparently having suffered a direct SAM hit.

Iraqi officials soon announced the capture of American pilots. It was originally believed the chances of Speicher's ejection were slim, but the books were not closed on Speicher. He was the first American to be listed Missing in Action. Most recent media reports indicate that he was probably "confirmed killed." Although Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney has said Speicher was killed, he is still officially listed missing in action. The Methodist church in Florida where Scott Speicher has been a Sunday School teacher has held prayer and candlelight vigils for his safety. They have not given up hope that he is still alive.

In the first days of March, 1991, 21 American POWs were released by the Iraqis. Scott Speicher has not yet been released. Those who recall the abandonment of American POWs in World War II, Korea and Vietnam are watching carefully, determined that men like Speicher will be returned alive, or fully accounted for, before American troops leave the Middle East when hostilities cease. Scott Speicher and his wife Joanne have two children, a daughter, age 3, and a son, age 1. All live in Jacksonville, Florida. Speicher's father, Wallace Speicher, was a Navy pilot in World War II.

As of May 1997, Michael Speicher is still unaccounted for. His status, Missing in Action, changed to KIA shortly after his incident. Although the USG has excavated what they believe to have been the plane's crash site, no remains were found. The USG also stated, prior to the excavation, that all men were accounted for. 

 

Free Scott Speicher Tribute & Support Page

www.freescottspeicher.org 

 

www.operationfreespike.com 

DoD News Release #156-09 March 10, 2009

Navy Changes Speicher Status To ‘Missing-In-Action’

Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter determined today that the status of Capt. Michael Scott Speicher is changed from “Missing/Captured” to “Missing-In-Action” (MIA). 

This determination was made after a review of available information; including the report and recommendation of a Status Review Board and comments provided by the Speicher family, as well as a Defense Intelligence Agency assessment.

Speicher was the first casualty of Operation Desert Storm. His F/A-18 Hornet was downed by hostile action on January 17, 1991, during the first manned air strike of the war, and he was declared “Killed-In-Action/Body-Not-Recovered” in May 1991.

His status was changed in 2001 to MIA, and then to Missing/Captured in 2002 based on sighting reports in Iraq. Those sightings have since been discredited. 

In October 2008, the intelligence community concluded that Speicher is deceased, though his remains are unlocated. Based on that assessment, the Secretary of the Navy convened a Status Review Board to consider whether Speicher's status should remain Missing/Captured or should be changed. 

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