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Weekly Column: Honoring Idaho's POW/MIA By Keeping Up The Fight To Bring Them Home

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), which is the agency primarily responsible for coordinating and conducting research and recovery efforts for America’s prisoners of war (POW)s and missing in action (MIA), 361 servicemembers from Idaho are among the 81,000 Americans who remain missing from past conflicts.  The vast majority, 329, of Idaho’s missing servicemembers were lost during their service in World War II, while 23 Idahoans were lost serving in the Korean War.  Eight Idahoans went missing while serving in the Vietnam War.  One Idahoan was lost during service in the Cold War.  This year, I started a social medial campaign called #MIAMonday as part of the longtime effort to highlight their service and the continuing work to bring them home.

Commander Roderick L. Mayer is one of Idaho’s missing recognized through #MIA Monday:

Commander Mayer flew more than 80 missions in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War until he was shot down and became MIA.  Mayer's mathematical prowess made him a critical part of many Phantom fighter bombing operations.

On October 17, 1965, Mayer and radar intercept officer (RIO) David R.  Wheat departed from the aircraft carrier USS Independence on a strike mission against the Thai Nguyen Bridge.  The mission was dangerous, requiring low-level flight maneuvers to avoid radar detection that could attract Surface-to Air missiles as well as putting the aircraft in danger of ground fire.  The Phantom was struck by enemy anti-aircraft artillery, causing the plane to roll and crash.  Both men were able to eject before it hit the ground, but could not be found when a rescue helicopter arrived two hours later.  Radio surveillance in the area was also unsuccessful in establishing contact with either soldier.  Wheat was captured and returned to the U.S. alive at the end of the war.  Mayer remains unaccounted for.  You can read more about Commander Mayer and other Idaho military honorees on my website:

In honor of the observation of National POW/MIA Recognition Day this September 15, 2023, I join in raising awareness about the American servicemembers, including Commander Mayer, who remain missing.  I commend those who work for and assist the DPAA and related efforts to get needed answers and bring all American servicemembers home.  Navigating challenging conditions in foreign countries cannot be easy, but bringing all our servicemembers home is critical to respecting their service and supporting military families.  Thank you also to the members of the POW*MIA Awareness Rally Corp. of Pocatello, the Boise Valley POW/MIA Corporation, the National League of POW/MIA Families and others across our country for keeping a spotlight on the need to bring all missing American servicemembers home. 

To help account for missing American servicemembers, I joined Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) in re-introducing the Bring Our Heroes Home Act (BOHHA) to eliminate obstacles preventing families and caseworkers from accessing the records needed for recovering America’s POWs and MIA.  The Senate bill would consolidate all records related to missing personnel within a newly instituted Missing Armed Forces and Civilian Personnel Records Collection at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and require all government agencies to transmit any missing servicemember and civilian records to NARA.  The measure would also establish an independent government office, the Missing Armed Forces and Civilian Personnel Records Review Board, to identify missing personnel records, facilitate the transmission and disclosure of these records, and review any decisions by federal agencies to postpone declassification.

Each day, as we see the reminder of those Americans and their families through the POW/MIA flags that are posted at many places across our nation, including the halls of Congress, military sites, war memorials, national cemeteries and U.S. postal service offices, let us not lose sight of this enduring commitment to accounting for those missing. 

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