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Presidential Commission on Americans Missing and Unaccounted for in Southeast Asia Remarks at a News Briefing on the Results of the Commission's Trip to Vietnam and Laos

March 23, 1977

I'd like to make a brief report on what I consider to be a superb mission to Vietnam and Laos on the part of Leonard Woodcock and Senator Mike Mansfield, Marian Edelman, Ambassador Yost, and Congressman Montgomery, to inquire about the accounting for American service people who were missing in action, and also to lay the groundwork for future normalization of diplomatic relationships with those two countries.

Every hope that we had for the mission has been realized. The Commission members and the staff were received with great friendship. The Vietnamese delivered to the Commission 12 bodies. Eleven of them have been identified as American servicemen. One body is not an American serviceman and will be returned. We have notified the Vietnamese Government about the error and it was an honest mistake.

Positive identification procedures are continuing in Hawaii. And we feel that without delay--this is a very careful and meticulous process--that we can notify the families when positive identification is assured. The other 11 bodies are American service people and we think we know who they are, but before the families are notified, we want to be absolutely certain. The one body that was in error, the family is being notified about that error.

The Vietnamese have not tied together economic allocations of American funds with the MIA question. We believe that they've acted in good faith. They have promised to set up a permanent study mechanism by which the United States Government can provide information that we have about the potential whereabouts or identity of servicemen who were lost, and the Vietnamese have promised to cooperate in pursuing the evidence that we might present to them in the future.

They've also suggested that we reinitiate diplomatic discussions in Paris without delay, to resolve other issues that might be an obstacle to peace between our two countries, and friendship between our two countries, and normalization of relationships within our two countries.

I will respond immediately to Premier Pham Van Dong, that we accept their invitation and that these discussions will commence. There are no preconditions requested, and there will certainly be no preconditions on our part for 'these talks in Paris.

I'd like to express on behalf of the American people, my sincere thanks to Chairman Leonard Woodcock .and to the Commission members. They met with almost every conceivable interested group before they departed from the United States, including representatives of the families of servicemen who are missing in action, congressional leaders, and others, and they formed a team which worked in remarkable concert and performed their assignment in an absolutely superlative way.

At this time, I would like to introduce to the group Chairman Leonard Woodcock, who will be available to answer your questions about the trip.

Later on this afternoon, a complete written report by the Commission to me will be made public.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House, following his meeting with members of the Commission. Leonard Woodcock, president of the United Auto Workers and Chairman of the Commission, and former Senator Mike Mansfield, a member of the Commission, held a news briefing for reporters following the President's remarks.

Later in the day, the White House Press Office released the 22-page report of the Commission.

Jimmy Carter, Presidential Commission on Americans Missing and Unaccounted for in Southeast Asia Remarks at a News Briefing on the Results of the Commission's Trip to Vietnam and Laos Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243329

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