The Known Unknown

Michael Blassie

“At a moment of great crises in the history of the world, he gave of himself,”

Archbishop Justin Rigali at funeral mass for Michael Blassie

Air Force First Lieutenant Michael Blassie’s life came to an end at age twenty-four on May 11, 1972 when the A-37B Dragonfly that he was flying in support of South Vietnamese troops in An Loc was shot down.  His body could not be recovered because the North Vietnamese had control of the area where his plane was shot down.  The Saint Louis native, a 1970 graduate of the Air Force academy, had a short military career but an illustrious one:  earning a Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, and an Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters.  Thanks to the air support he and his colleagues gave, the North Vietnamese did not take An Loc.

Five months later partial skeletal remains were recovered from the crash site.  Initially identified as being Blassie’s, the remains were later reclassified as being unknown when it was erroneously determined that the height and age of the remains did not match with Blassie.

In 1984 these remains were designated as being those of the Unknown Soldier for the Vietnam War.  A decade later in 1994, an anonymous stranger called the Blassie family and advised them that the Vietnam Unknown might be Michael.  In 1998, at the request of the family, DNA tests were conducted and confirmed that the Vietnam Unknown was Blassie.  Blassie was reburied at Jefferson Barracks in Saint Louis.  I normally am fond of all military traditions, but I hope with improvements in DNA testing that there will utimately be no unknown servivcemen from any future wars, and that the tradition of the unknown soldier can be laid to rest.

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  1. Audie Murphy , the most decorated soldier of World War II said: loosely quoted: “These medals belong to all the men who fought and gave their lives.”… for freedom.
    The Unkown Soldier represents all the brave men who fight for freedom for the home of the brave and the land of the free. Some who have yet to meet their Maker belong to this cult of the Unkown Soldier. Those who fought in Viet Nam and were disparaged when they came home belong to the Unknown Soldier.
    It is through the Unknown Soldier that civilians may pay tribute to all men who sacrficed their lives, risked life and limb to be there for us, no one is excluded.

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