The remains of nine US soldiers found in Cambodia have been identified and returned to their families this year, according to Robert Jones, US deputy assistant secretary of defense for Prisoner of War/Missing In Action affairs.
These recently identified dead were among 11 sets of remains recovered off Koh Tang Island near Sihanoukville in 1995.
The other two sets are still being examined at the US government’s identification lab in the US state of Hawaii, Jones said in a Phnom Penh press conference on Tuesday.
The remains were discovered in a US helicopter shot down during the 1975 Mayaguez incident, described as the US’s last direct armed confrontation with Indochinese communists.
With the help of former Khmer Rouge cadre, a Cambodian-US joint task force recovered yet another set of human remains on the island in January.
“We’ve conducted a series of operations on Koh Tang over the years, but in the past year we’ve had a great deal of success working with former Khmer Rouge soldiers who fought in the battle there,” Jones said.
The US government will conduct another recovery mission with Cambodia’s help in early next year, he said.
Since the war in Vietnam, the US has identified the remains of a total of 16 Americans formerly missing in Cambodia, and has sent them home to their families. Sixty-five soldiers remain unaccounted for, according to a US government statement.
The US government budgets about $54 million annually for its searches of POWs and MIAs, Jones said.
That budget supports several joint task forces with other governments, labs in Hawaii and in Texas, and an office in Washington.