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Local Family Searches for POW/MIA Loved One

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Local Family Searches for POW/MIA Loved One

The U.S. Department of Defense continues to look for over 10,000 soldiers missing in action since the beginning of the Korean War. 500 of them are from Illinois. Recently families from around Chicago met with the Pentagon here to find out more about their loved ones.

Eileen Taylor and her son Mark sit at a table watching a slide show, taking notes, and listening to Pentagon officials talk about searching for the remains of missing soldiers. At a break, Eileen Taylor tells me about her husband, Bob Taylor.

After he graduated from DePaul, they got married, he joined the Navy and in 1969 they were stationed in Japan. One night, 2 men knocked on her door.

TAYLOR: And they told me that my husband’s plane was shot down at 2 o’clock that afternoon and they were out searching for survivors. I think that’s the worst, you know to have a perfect stranger tell you that the person you love, that was your high school sweetheart, that you were only married to for 3 years...is not coming home.

So Eileen packed up herself and her two small children and boarded a plane back to Chicago. Back home, she started her search. She says she spent ten years writing letters to law makers, the press and the Department of Defense.

TAYLOR: They’d send me reams of information and everything was blacked out of course except the adverbs and pronouns... But everything else was blacked out.

Finally, frustrated, she quit. She packed the papers in boxes and moved on. But when Eileen and her son Mark heard about this meeting just a few miles from their neighborhood, they decided to come. Here’s Mark Taylor.

MARK TAYLOR: We’re 39 years after the incident, you know, I’m just looking for all the black lines to be gone. You know, what were the conversations, what was really the intent of the flight?

The Department of Defense hasn’t always done a good job working with families.

CRONAUER: ... it’s possible they were even lied to. That has resulted in a residual anger or frustration among some family members.

That’s Adrian Cronauer, a spokesman for the department. And yes, he’s that Adrian Cronauer, the subject of the movie Good Morning Viet Nam. He says not everyone at the Pentagon is committed to the search.

CRONAUER: It’s sometimes possible with a war going on, looking for what some people call dead bones, is not always seen as the highest priority. But for us, it is, definitely. Staff identify the remains of about 100 M.IA. soldiers every year. And they host meetings around the country to talk with families about their missing soldiers.

And that’s why Mark and Eileen Taylor are here. They want to ask a real live person for news about their husband and father, Bob Taylor. After the slide show, they sit down with 3 men from the Pentagon. It doesn’t go very well. Mark leafs through one of the documents he’s been given.

MARK: When you look at this, there’s a lot in here, that is just whited out... page noise... (reading) He felt the mission supervisor made a ... and then it’s blank.

The pages are largely whited out.

TAYLOR: I guess what I don’t understand is - if you have the original document, why can’t you just send me the original document? I’m not going to do anything with this secret information. (yea, I know that...) Heavens to Betsy, I just want it for my files.

WOODIER: I certainly sympathize with that but there are regulations related to national security and declassification guidelines that we are forced to go through.

Eileen says she thought that 39 years after the incident, more information would be available.

TAYLOR: I mean 39 years... (I understand).. Well, you know what , I don’t think you do. I just want to know what happened.

To Eileen, the meeting’s a reminder of why she gave up her search; it just seems endless. But Mark says he’s glad they came today. And he’s making plans to keep pushing the Pentagon for more information.

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