DIA Observance Honors Vietnam Veterans

WASHINGTON — The Defense Intel­li­gence Agency last week marked its 50th birth­day � and the 50th anniver­sary of the begin­ning of U.S. mil­i­tary action in Viet­nam — with a trib­ute to U.S. Sen. John McCain and all Viet­nam War vet­er­ans.

“Your ser­vice and sac­ri­fices for our nation dur­ing Viet­nam and beyond are inspi­ra­tional,” said DIA Direc­tor Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess dur­ing the Nov. 4 obser­vance after ask­ing Viet­nam War vet­er­ans to stand and be rec­og­nized. The event was aired live as a video tele­con­fer­ence viewed by cur­rent and for­mer DIA employ­ees around the world. Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence James R. Clap­per, Jr. and for­mer DIA direc­tors Patrick Hugh­es and James Williams also attend­ed the obser­vance in DIA’s Tighe Audi­to­ri­um on Joint Base Bolling-Ana­cos­tia.

Burgess pre­sent­ed McCain with the DIA Director’s Award and the DIA Oper­a­tional Intel­li­gence report from Oct. 27, 1967, which cit­ed his Navy A-4E air­craft as downed by sur­face-to-air mis­siles south­west of Hanoi.�

Burgess also brought atten­tion to the final days of the evac­u­a­tion of Saigon, in April 4, 1975, when a C-5 trans­port plane car­ry­ing the first flight of Viet­namese orphans out of the coun­try dur­ing “Oper­a­tion Babylift” crashed in a rice pad­dy.

“This agency saw self­less sac­ri­fice,” he said, not­ing that the casu­al­ties includ­ed five DIA employ­ees charged with car­ing for the chil­dren on that flight.� The crash was the sin­gle largest loss of agency per­son­nel until 9/11.

McCain addressed the over­flow crowd and thanked the agency and its vet­er­ans for the role they played in the fight and close of the Viet­nam War.

McCain thanked Burgess for the job he is doing lead­ing DIA and the agency’s work­force world­wide. “I only wish that more of Amer­i­cans could see for them­selves the full extent of the remark­able job that that you do every sin­gle day for them,” he said.

McCain recalled that it was just over 50 years ago that the ink was bare­ly dry on then Defense Sec­re­tary Robert McNamara’s order to estab­lish DIA before the orga­ni­za­tion found itself on the front lines in Viet­nam. Lat­er, as Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy began the grad­ual esca­la­tion of Amer­i­cans involved in that war, DIA set the stan­dard of ser­vice to take it through the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis, the Six Day War, Oper­a­tion Desert Storm, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“This is the same stan­dard of ser­vice that all of you con­tin­ue to live up to today,” McCain said. “This is a spe­cial year for DIA as you mark your 50th anniver­sary. Of all the agen­cies of our gov­ern­ment, DIA can tru­ly say that it was born fight­ing.”

McCain told those in the audi­ence that regard­less of the uni­form they wear or the work accom­plished as a DIA employ­ee, their ser­vice is always worth it.�

“There’s no high­er hon­or than to serve a just cause greater than your own self inter­ests,” he said. “And for those of you who walked away from a con­fus­ing, painful and emo­tion­al expe­ri­ence of your time in Viet­nam, you nev­er­the­less chose to remain faith­ful to the cause of our nation and all who serve it. I com­mend you.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)