The remains of Capt. Michael Scott Speicher, the F/A-18 Hornet pilot who was shot down over Iraq at the start of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, have been found, according to a Navy spokesman.
The remains were found by Marines stationed in Anbar province, who received a tip from an Iraqi citizen in early July, Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, the Navy’s top spokesman, said early Sunday morning.
“The Iraqi citizen stated he knew of two Iraqi citizens who recalled an American jet impacting the desert and the remains of the pilot being buried in the desert,” Thorp said. “One of these Iraqi citizens stated they were present when Captain Speicher was found dead at the crash site by Bedouins and his remains buried.”
He said the remains were recovered over several days during the past week, and were positively identified by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. The remains included bones and “multiple skeletal fragments,” Thorp said. “Positive identification was made by comparing Captain Speicher’s dental records with the jawbone recovered at the site.”
Although the dental records were a match, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, based in Rockville, Md., is comparing the DNA results with samples submitted by Speicher’s family, Thorp said, adding that the results should take “about a day.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Captain Speicher’s family for the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a statement.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead said: “Our Navy will never give up looking for a shipmate, regardless of how long or how difficult that search may be. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Captain Speicher and his family for the sacrifice they have made for our nation and the example of strength they have set for all of us.”
Speicher, who was shot down Jan. 17, 1991, was the first casualty of the Gulf War. He was a lieutenant commander at the time and his since been promoted twice in his absence.
On March 19, then-Navy Secretary Donald Winter changed his status from “missing/captured” to “missing in action” based on available evidence.