Austin Remembers Prisoners of War and Missing Servicemen > US Department of Defense > Defense Department News

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met today at the Pentagon with former prisoners of war, families of military personnel missing, and personnel from the nations’ embassies. The DOD works with these groups to account for missing U.S. personnel and to commemorate National Prisoner of War/MIA Appreciation Day.

“Each year on National Prisoner of War/MIA Appreciation Day, we come together to honor the American military personnel who have been taken into captivity to support the families of the missing and missing and to renew our commitment to bringing home home our fallen heroes,” Austin said.

The Department of Defense is working to recover those captured or lost in action, Austin said. And earlier in the week, the remains of one of those servicemen finally made it home.

In 1943, during World War II, Austin said, Army Air Corps Lt. Col. Addison Baker led pilots in a low-level attack on enemy-controlled oil fields near Ploiesti, In Romania.

“As he approached his target, the enemy hit him with an anti-aircraft shell,” Austin said. “His plane was burning and damaged and he could have chosen to land. But Lt. Col. Baker was determined to complete the mission. He continued until he reached his target. But afterwards his plane damaged tragically crashed into the city below.”

The following year, Austin said, Baker received the Medal of Honor for his actions, although the whereabouts of his remains were unknown at the time. The Department of Defense, Austin said, never stopped looking for Baker.

“Nearly eight decades after his daring mission, scientists at Offutt Air Force Base used innovative forensic techniques to identify him,” Austin said. “This week his family was able to say goodbye and bury Lt. Col. Baker in Arlington.”

Members of Baker’s family were present at the event. Austin met with them privately before the ceremony.

Thanks to the work of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Austin said, thousands of POWs and service members missing in action have been recovered and their remains returned to loved ones pending news in the United States. Still, there’s still a lot to discover, Austin said. The DPMAA estimates that up to 81,000 US service members and civilians are still missing.

“It’s a monumental task, but it’s also a sacred obligation,” Austin said. “Everyone who serves in the United States military makes a solemn pledge to this country, and so does their families. And this country makes a solemn promise to them in return: to provide as many accounts as possible to every missing person. duty and it is our solemn obligation to do good for those who sacrifice themselves to defend our security and our democracy.

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency experts, Austin said, are working in 46 countries around the world, searching for remains and using cutting-edge forensic technology to identify the missing. However, the DPMAA does not do this work alone.

“Our partners around the world are providing vital support, including former enemies turned friends,” Austin said. “And family and veterans service organizations, many of whom are here today, shine a spotlight on this important cause and help us fulfill our commitment to those who have served.”

Today, the DPMAA estimates that more than 81,000 Americans remain missing from past conflicts ranging from World War II to the Gulf War. So far in fiscal year 2022, the DPMAA has conducted nearly 100 missions to 37 countries searching for U.S. personnel and has identified more than 140 missing U.S. service members, each with their own story.

“These are stories of pain and uncertainty, but also of hope, endurance and relief, when long-sought answers are finally found,” Austin said. “The black and white flag we fly in honor of our POWs and MIAs carries a simple yet powerful message to the families of those still missing and to all who serve, and to our nation. And this message is that we can never We will never give up hope and we will never stop working to find answers and bring our departed home.

National Prisoners of War Appreciation Day / MIA was established in 1979 by a proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter. Since then, each subsequent president has issued an annual proclamation commemorating the third Friday in September as National Prisoner of War/MIA Appreciation Day.

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