Professor to tell story behind identifying Vietnam Unknown Soldier

A Penn State DNA researcher who helped to reveal the mystery identity of the Vietnam Unknown Soldier, along with the soldier's sister -- herself a military officer -- will tell both the scientific and the personal stories behind the discovery of the soldier's identity during a talk Tuesday at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C.

Mitchell Holland, a member of the DNA discovery team who now is a Penn State professor of forensic science, and Col. Patricia Blassie, the sister of the Vietnam Unknown Soldier, will speak at 5:45 p.m.  A guided tour of the museum's Vietnam Unknown Soldier exhibit will begin at 6:15 p.m.

The soldier, who was shot down near An Loc, South Vietnam, in 1972, was identified 26 years later as 1st Lieutenant Michael John Blassie -- but only after his remains were exhumed in 1998 for DNA analysis.

Holland held various positions at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) in Rockville, Md., including Scientific Laboratory Director from 1993-2000. At AFDIL, Holland was responsible for the laboratory that identified the remains of Blassie and Nicholas Romanov (the last Russian Tsar). The focus of the work at AFDIL was the identification of U.S. military personnel killed in Vietnam, Korea, and as a result of conflicts during World War II.

Last Updated November 18, 2010