DATE OF MOH ACTION: 1958-1975
The designation of the Vietnam Unknown proved to be difficult – with improvements in DNA testing it is possible, though unlikely, that the recovered remains for every unknown soldier killed in the Vietnam War will be identified.
The Vietnam Unknown service member was originally designated by Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg, Jr., during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, May 17, 1984.
Each branch of the Armed Services took part in the transportation to honor the unknown. The Marines from Marine Barracks Hawaii consisted of an Honor Guard of 9 enlisted men and Lt. Denis Muller. The designated Vietnam Unknown was transported aboard the USS Brewton, where the Marines stood guard over the casket during the voyage to Naval Air Station Alameda, California. At Travis, the debarkation ceremony turned the remains over to the USAF on May 24. The next day, the remains of were flown from Travis Air Force Base, California, arriving at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. Once there the remains were turned over to the US Army, where the remains were taken to Fort McNair for placement upon the horse-drawn wagon which later carried the Unknown to the Capital Rotunda for display before interment. While on display for public viewing, all branches of the US Armed Forces stood in honor, guarding the casket of the Unknown for 2 weeks.
The Tomb guards stood at death watch for the entire day as thousands of people braved the dreary weather to pay their respects.
The presidential wreath was brought forward toward President Reagan during the interment ceremony for the Unknown Serviceman of the Vietnam Era at the Tomb of the Unknowns on May 28, 1984. Many Vietnam veterans and President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan visited the Vietnam Unknown in the U.S. Capitol. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984.
President Reagan presided over the funeral, and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown, and also acted as next of kin by accepting the interment flag at the end of the ceremony. The interment flags of all Unknowns at the Tomb of the Unknowns are on view in the Memorial Display Room.
In 1994, Ted Sampley, a POW/MIA activist, determined that the remains of the Vietnam Unknown were likely those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Lc, Vietnam, in 1972. Sampley published an article in his newsletter and contacted Blassie's family, who attempted to pursue the case with the Air Force's casualty office without result. In January 1998, CBS News broadcast a report based on Sampley's investigation which brought political pressure to support the identification of the remains. The body was exhumed on May 14, 1998. Based on mitochondrial DNA testing, Department of Defense scientists confirmed the remains were those of Blassie. The identification was announced on June 30, 1998, and on July 10, Blassie's remains arrived home to his family in St. Louis, Missouri; he was reinterred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery on July 11.
AN ACT To authorize the President to award the Medal of Honor to the unknown American who lost his life while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam era and who has been selected to be buried in the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is hereby authorized and directed to award, in the name of the Congress, a Medal of Honor to the unknown American who lost his life while serving in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam era as a member of the Armed Forces of the United States and who has been selected to lie buried in the Memorial Amphitheater of the National Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia, as authorized by the National Cemeteries Act of 1973.
BURIAL LOCATION: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA.
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