Friday, October 21, 2011

U.S.-North Korea Conclude POW/MIA Talks

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The Department of Defense announced today that the United States and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) officials reached an arrangement to resume recovering the remains of American servicemen missing from the Korean War.

The three-day talks held in Bangkok were led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs Robert J. Newberry.  His negotiating team included representatives from across the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the U.S. Pacific Command and the United Nations Command-Korea.

The arrangement calls for U.S. teams to work in two areas in North Korea—Unsan County, about 60 miles north of Pyongyang, and near the Chosin/Jangjin Reservoir—where more than 2,000 soldiers and Marines are believed to be missing.  The arrangement includes details on logistics and matters that will ensure the effectiveness and safety of remains recovery teams operating in the DPRK.  Accounting for Americans missing in action is a stand-alone humanitarian matter, not tied to any other issue between the two countries.

The operations in North Korea are expected to begin next year and will mark the first since 2005, when the U.S. halted missions due to increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula.  Prior to that time, U.S. specialists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command conducted operations in that country for 10 years, recovering remains believed to be more than 225 servicemen since 1996.

Of the approximately 83,000 Americans missing from all conflicts, more than 7,900 are from the Korean War with 5,500 of those believed to be missing in the DPRK.

War of 1812 Flagship Reveals Its Secrets

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By Bradley Cantor
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2011 – A U.S. Navy ship that’s rested on the bottom of the Patuxent River for nearly 200 years is slowly revealing its secrets to archaeologists, a senior Navy administrator said yesterday.

During a “DOD Live” bloggers roundtable, Bob Neyland, head of the Navy’s underwater archaeology branch, discussed the excavation of the USS Scorpion, which was scuttled during the War of 1812.

The Scorpion, the flagship of Commodore Joshua Barney’s Chesapeake Bay Flotilla, is located about 30 minutes outside Washington.

During the War of 1812, Barney was charged to protect Washington from invading British forces. Barney’s plan called for the construction of a flotilla containing smaller barges and gunboats that would be able to outmaneuver the larger British ships in the shallow Chesapeake waters.

The flotilla fought in several battles and played a key role in draining British resources and slowing the invasion. However, Barney’s Chesapeake Bay Flotilla met its end Aug. 22, 1814.

After the Battle of St. Leonard’s Creek, Barney was forced to flee up the Patuxent River to what is now Highway 4, near Pig Point, Md. He was outflanked, seriously wounded, and had used up most of his ammunition. Neyland said it was there that Barney scuttled his flotilla, including the USS Scorpion, to prevent the approaching British navy from commandeering his vessels.

As the flotilla sank, Barney and his remaining crew left Pig Point and made their way to join American troops and citizen-soldiers fighting at the Battle of Bladensburg, Md. As the British forces overcame the Americans, many of the citizen-soldiers retreated, but Barney and his crew stayed to fight. In the end, they were among the last on the battlefield. Barney died in Pittsburgh in 1818 while traveling to Kentucky, where he planned to retire.

Until now, little was known about the construction of Barney’s fleet and, in particular, the Scorpion. Historians knew the Scorpion was a converted gunboat, built in 1806. “We really don't know a whole lot about the construction of it,” Neyland said, “other than it was one of the larger sloop brig vessels.”

In the late 1970s, amateur archaeologists found wreckage on the same spot where Barney scuttled his flotilla. Preliminary evidence suggested the wreckage dated to the War of 1812.

“They verified that it was a War of 1812 vessel from recovered parts of a surgeon's kit, [and from] materials that were appropriate to the War of 1812,” Neyland said.

The location suggested the wreckage was part of Barney’s flotilla. But additional and deeper exploration yielded evidence that removed all doubt that the flagship USS Scorpion, had indeed been found.

Archaeologists have found some very telling personal items aboard one of the vessels, Neyland said.

“They found a grog cup … and the initials C.W. were on that cup,” Neyland said. “The only C.W. listed with Barney was an African-American sailor named Caesar Wentworth. He was assigned to … Barney's flagship, called the Scorpion. So, hence, that's part of the evidence that suggests the wreck we are looking at today is that of the Scorpion.”

With the excavation under way, the plan is in place to make the USS Scorpion part of the War of 1812 bicentennial commemoration. The commemoration will start in 2012 and continue through 2014. The Scorpion will join the commemoration in 2013. At that point, Neyland said, he and his team will put a steel structure – called a cofferdam -- around the 75-foot shipwreck. The water will then be pumped out, thus fully excavating the USS Scorpion.

This method allows a more detailed recording of artifacts and the hull, Neyland said, and will allow for public viewing both on the site and by webcam.

USS Mustin Arrives in Thailand

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From U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

LAEM CHABANG, Thailand (NNS) -- Guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) arrived in Laem Chabang Oct. 21 for a port visit and to participate in community service events to strengthen ties between the U.S. and the Kingdom of Thailand.

The U.S. Navy extends its sincere condolences to the people of Thailand in the aftermath of the recent flooding that has affected the nation.

While in port, the crew of USS Mustin will participate in community service projects in an effort to build upon existing ties between the two nations. The crew will also engage with their Royal Thai Navy counterparts to build on the relationship they have established with their ally.

"Our ship visited Thailand earlier this year and received a very warm welcome from the Thai people," said Mustin's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Scott A. Tait. "The men and women of Mustin are truly looking forward to return their kindness. We are looking forward to engaging the community in any way we can."

Engine Failure Cause of June F-16 Fighter Crash

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The U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command Accident Investigation Board released Tuesday that engine failure caused a Wisconsin Air National Guard fighter jet to crash in Adams County in early June.

An F-16 assigned to the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing in Madison crashed into an unoccupied vacation home June 7 in New Chester, Wis.

The incident occurred near the completion of a training flight. When the pilot realized there was an engine failure and he wouldn't be able to re-start the engine, he guided the malfunctioning fighter jet away from any populated areas and safely ejected from the disabled aircraft.

The pilot, Lt. Col. Glen Messner, credited his many hours of pilot training as the key reason the incident wasn't any worse than it was. "It was automatic. I never had time to be scared, to freeze up," he said. "Once I pulled the ejection seat handle, I went right into my Life Support training."

Messner, 45, enlisted in the Wisconsin Air National Guard in 1986 and completed pilot training in 1989. Prior to flying the F-16 Falcon, Messner flew the A-10. Messner has more than 3,100 flying hours in the F-16.

The 115th Fighter Wing has flown Air Force F-16 fighter jets since 1993 and has an excellent safety record. The June crash is the first accident for the 115th Fighter Wing since 1995.