Captain Scott Speicher and three other pilots took off in their F/A-18s from the deck of the USS Saratoga. It was January 17, 1991, the first night of the Gulf War. As they flew their bombing mission over Iraq, one of the other pilots saw Speicher’s plane hit by anti-aircraft fire. He was assumed to be the first American killed in the war.
His status was later changed to missing, then captured, then missing again. Just before the start of the war against Iraq, we reported that there were hopes he was alive in Baghdad. Folks here in home town of Jacksonville set up a website, raised funds and helped the family pressure for information.
Speicher’s widow, Joanne, later married Buddy Harris, another ex-Navy pilot and continued to live in Jacksonville. They raised Scott’s children, and had children of their own, but kept hearing haunting stories. Every few weeks, they would hear from someone that Scott was still alive. There were reports that an Iraqi doctor had examined him, and stories of recovered pistols that may have belonged to Scott. Then they learned that Scott’s plane had not been blown apart in the sky.
The New York Times reported Qataris had found Speicher’s Hornet sitting almost intact in the Iraqi desert. There was a man made symbol drawn near the ejection seat. It was the type of symbol pilots draw when they leave the aircraft and seek shelter, although it was not the symbol that had been assigned to Speicher. There was also the story of an Iraqi who drove an American pilot to Baghdad.
Sadly, today, we learn those stories were inaccurate. U.S. Marines were led to a site near the crashed aircraft where they found remains that the Pentagon now says are those of Speicher.Identification was made by dental records.
The family says it will await DNA testing before making a comment other than to say they thank the Department of Defense for not giving up on Scott. High school friends say they are sorry to learn of his death, but thankful that he was not held in captivity and tortured.