The Vietnamese government has informed the United States it will repatriate the remains of what it believes may be 27 American servicemen missing from the Vietnam War, the Pentagon said Thursday.
The remains will be delivered to U.S. military officials in Hanoi on April 6 and transported to the Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Honolulu for identification, the Pentagon said in a statement."The U.S. government appreciates the initiative taken by Vietnam to repatriate these remains and hopes it represents just one of many continued steps to resolve this long-standing humanitarian issue," the Pentagon said.
Dan Howard, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, said the repatriation would be the largest single such transfer of remains since the end of the war. The largest previous tranfer occurred on Aug. 14, 1985, when the Vietnamese returned the remains of 26.
There are currently 2,404 Americans still listed as missing in Indochina as a result of the Vietnam War, of whom 1,767 are listed as missing in either North or South Vietnam. The remains of 152 Americans have been repatriated to the United States and subsequently identified by the laboratory since the end of the war.
On March 2, the Vietnamese turned over the remains of 17 to U.S. officials.
The upcoming transfer would be the fourth since retired Army Gen. John Vessey traveled to Hanoi last August as a special presidential emissary, hoping to step up the process of accounting for missing Americans.
Asked if the Pentagon could explain the sudden increase in repatriations, Howard replied: "It's really not for us to do that. The Vietnamese are the ones who should be explaining to the American people . . . "