USA — Officials Unveil Pentagon POW/MIA Exhibit

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2010 — Defense Depart­ment offi­cials today ded­i­cat­ed a por­tion of the Pen­ta­gon to mil­i­tary pris­on­ers of war and troops miss­ing in action, hon­or­ing one of the military’s guid­ing prin­ci­ples: Nev­er leave a com­rade behind.

Pentagon corridor to American military prisoners of war and those missing in action
Michele Flournoy, the Defense Department’s pol­i­cy chief, talks about the impor­tance of the military’s mis­sion to recov­er all pris­on­ers of war and those miss­ing in action dur­ing a Pen­ta­gon cer­e­mo­ny Sept. 15, 2010, in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Flournoy helped ded­i­cate a Pen­ta­gon cor­ri­dor to Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pris­on­ers of war and those miss­ing in action.
DoD pho­to by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Car­den
Click to enlarge

Michele Flournoy, the Pentagon’s pol­i­cy chief, host­ed the cer­e­mo­ny on the building’s third floor, in Ring A between cor­ri­dors 6 and 7.

The hall­way is lined with infor­ma­tion, arti­facts and pho­tographs under­scor­ing the ser­vice and sac­ri­fice of more than 80,000 MIAs and POWs from the present con­flict in Afghanistan and dat­ing back to World War II.

“No mat­ter how far away or how long ago, we will do every­thing human­ly pos­si­ble to bring all those miss­ing ser­vice­mem­bers home,” Flournoy said. “We do this for the sake of their fam­i­ly mem­bers, and we also do this for all who serve today.”

The dis­play exhib­it was designed in the cor­ri­dor, because thou­sands of peo­ple — ser­vice­mem­bers, defense civil­ians and tourists — walk through it each year, Flournoy said. The exhibit’s loca­tion, she added, under­scores the impor­tance the Defense Depart­ment places on recov­er­ing pris­on­ers of war and those miss­ing in action.

“As we stand here today,” she said, “many thou­sands of ser­vice­men and women are deployed around the world in harm’s way. And in the days and years to come, some of them will give their lives to their coun­try. Some of them may fall into ene­my hands.

“Part of what enables our men and women to focus on accom­plish­ing their mis­sion in harsh and dan­ger­ous envi­ron­ments is the knowl­edge that we will do what­ev­er it takes to bring them home,” she con­tin­ued.

World War II Army Air Corps pilot Jer­ry Wolf was one such ser­vice­mem­ber. His recon­nais­sance plane was shot down in 1946 over Ger­many. Although he sur­vived the crash, he spent 11 months in a Ger­man prison, he said.

Wolf not­ed that World War II vet­er­ans soon will be extinct, and dis­plays such as the Pen­ta­gon cor­ri­dor will help their lega­cy and ser­vice live on for­ev­er.

“I think the exhib­it is a won­der­ful begin­ning, and the recog­ni­tion is great,” Wolf said, adding that he donat­ed sev­er­al let­ters he wrote while in the prison camp and oth­er arti­facts to the dis­play. “It’s won­der­ful to be not­ed for your ser­vice and being an ex-pris­on­er of war.

Retired Navy Rear Adm. Robert Shu­mak­er is anoth­er for­mer POW who attend­ed the ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mo­ny. His fight­er plane was shot down over North Viet­nam in 1965. He spent eight years and one day in a prison camp, three of which were spent in soli­tary con­fine­ment.

“Some­times you don’t have a choice,” Shu­mak­er said. “When an air­plane crash­es, it crash­es. It’s a ter­ri­ble feel­ing, [but] I always knew that I’d nev­er be for­got­ten by the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

In the past year, the Joint Pris­on­ers of War and Miss­ing in Action Account­ing Com­mand has account­ed for 98 ser­vice­mem­bers miss­ing from the Kore­an War, the Viet­nam War and World War II. More than 80,000 ser­vice­mem­bers from the three wars remain unac­count­ed-for. Near­ly 2,000 from the same wars have been account­ed for and returned to their fam­i­lies.

The nation will cel­e­brate Nation­al POW/ MIA Recog­ni­tion Day Sept. 17. Cre­at­ed by Con­gress in 1998 as part of the Defense Autho­riza­tion Act, the obser­vance is rec­og­nized on the third Fri­day of Sep­tem­ber each year.

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

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