Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Sept. 17, 2019 —
As the United States began investing more personnel and resources to Vietnam in 1966, it was clear that a coordinated effort was needed to identify the status of prisoners of war, identify their location to support potential rescue operations, and to ensure that U.S. bombing missions did not inadvertently hit POW compounds. In 1967, the Defense Intelligence Agency took charge of this mission.
Following the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam in 1975, a large number of live-sighting reports and concern that U.S. soldiers were still being held in Vietnam and bordering countries led to a shift in DIA’s mission. In 1986, DIA established the STONY BEACH program to help resolve these cases. The STONY BEACH mission is to achieve the fullest possible accounting of unaccounted-for Americans from the Vietnam War. Today, STONY BEACH is the only U.S. government entity focused solely on Vietnam War POW/MIA accounting.
In all, DIA is actively looking for 1,588 unaccounted-for Americans from the Vietnam War.
To accomplish this mission, DIA language specialists conduct interviews in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, and leverage their relationships in Southeast Asia. With team members stationed in DIA Headquarters, Hawaii, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, STONY BEACH officers are able to respond rapidly to leads.
“We are the dedicated effort with specialized training and skills that match the challenges of the mission in Southeast Asia,” said STONY BEACH Program Manager, Bradley Taylor. As our colleagues at (DPAA) continue to expand their global mission, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and the Vietnam War families rely on STONY BEACH’s dedicated support to the Vietnam War.”
One recent success story started with a tip passed by the National League of POW/MIA Families, which led a Thailand-based STONY BEACH officer to learn the identity of a 90-year-old Lao national who observed the burial of an American POW associated with one of the highest profile cases in Laos. The resident officer stationed in Laos interviewed the witness, who subsequently escorted the team to the site where he observed the burial. A survey of the site provided enough evidence to conduct an excavation, and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency is actively working the excavation.
The responsibility that the United States leaves no one behind emphasizes the importance of STONY BEACH’s mission.
“It’s hard to put into words the sense of purpose and meaning our entire team feels for this mission,” Taylor added. “We derive that meaning from the rare opportunity we have to discuss our humanitarian efforts directly with the families of our unaccounted-for service members and we see firsthand how what we do impacts their lives.”
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