MIA Facts Site

Delores Alfond's
Letter Regarding
Her Brother's Identification

 

Background

You should have come to this page from a link in the article concerning the documents associated with the identification of USAF Captain Victor Apodaca; if not, click here to go to that article.  His sister, Delores Apodaca Alfond, is executive director of the "National Alliance for the Return of America's Missing Servicemen."  She founded the organization after she and her minions were unsuccessful in taking over the National League of Families.

When Captain Apodaca's identification was announced, Ms. Alfond immediately released a letter denouncing the identification as a sham.  There were real problems with her letter.

Donna Long Posts the Wrong Letter

A long-time member of the MIA activist cult is one Donna Long.   She is a frequent poster to the newsgroup alt.war.pow-mia where she posts under the name "The Last Firebase."  She is a close associate of Ted Sampley and shacked up with Bobby Garwood for a while before his court-martial.  In September 2001, Ms. Long posted the following message on the alt.war.pow-mia newsgroup:

The first version

QUOTE

Here is a detailed letter from Maj. Victor Apodaca's sister, Dolores. You can make up your own mind if you think he has been "honorably" accounted for:

To All Concerned Friends,

These are the main reasons that my sisters and I do Not believe that the remains that are being talked about are my brother.

1. Former Prisoner of War, Robert Barnett told us that Victor was held in the Hanoi Hilton and by three other accounts was seen alive after 1975 and as late as 1987.

2. NO evidence exists to associate these remains to the Apodaca/Bush crash site.

3. The remains were seized from a Vietnamese Remains ("Bones") Trader many miles from the said loss location.

4. In spite of the best efforts of JTFFA (Joint Task Force for Full Accounting) NO personal effects or human remains were recovered from the suspected crash site.

5. There is NO chain of custody for the remains.

6. FBI testing could NOT confirm the authenticity of the dog tag.

7. NO evidence exists to associate the dog tag to the crash site.

8.NO evidence exists to associate the dog tag to the remains subjected to mt-DNA testing.

9. NO evidence exits to suggest these remains are those of Victor J. Apodaca Jr.

10. All three bones are less than 5 inches in size and ONLY one was subjected to mt-DNA testing.

11. By October, 2000 the bone and the Apodaca blood sample matched 5 others in the mt-DNA database.

12. CILHI, AFDI, and the Morturay are using mt-DNA as the PRIMARY or sole mean of Identification, in this case violating their stated policy. As the database enlarges, how many more individuals will match the bone?

>The department of defense policy states - mt-DNA testing should only be used to support an identification when strong circumstantial evidence exists to suggest a possible identification. A letter from the Assistant Secretary
of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Affairs, dated 7 August 1998 states, "Scientists count on the power of mt-DNA typing to provide the necessary supporting evidence to make an identification in conjunction with many other
factors. Mt-DNA is NOT used as the primary or sole means of identification."

>No other factors exists to support the identification of ONE small bone tested as the remains of Victor Apodaca. The dog tag mentioned in the newspaper article, may in fact be a FAKE AND HAS NO association to the
remains purported to be our brothers. The dog tag was returned in 1988 while the bone tested was returned in 1989.

>In 1988 another box with Victor Apodaca's name attached to it was returned to us by a Vietnamese Remains (Bone) Trader> These remains were tested and were all animal bones. Why should we believe the Bone Trader now?

>FBI examination of the dog tag "could not confirm the tag had been subjected to jet fuel fire". They did conclude that the damage to the dog tag "appears to have occured relatively RECENTLY as compared to the apparent age of the tag".

>The FBI also concluded that the material used in the dog tag "has not been encountered as a result metallurgial examinations of numerous dog tags previously submitted in similar matters. All previous tags have been
comprised of austenitic stainless steel rather then Monel" (Montel is the material used in the dog tag purported to be our brothers).

> We strongly question this identification for the many reasons stated above.

WE HAVE NO CLOSURE BECAUSE WE HAVE NO TRUTH.

All we have are more questions.

The sisters of Major Victor J. Apodaca Jr.
Dolores Apodaca Alfond - Eleanor Apodaca - Joyce Apodaca - Janella Apodaca
Rose

Donna Long

END QUOTE

. . . and the second version

Within twenty-four hours, Ms. Long posted the following message on alt.war.pow-mia:

QUOTE

Need to correct my post. I inadvertantly posted a discarded draft of Dolores' letter. Point number 1, concerning the returned POW and live sighting reports was deleted in the final letter because they can not be substantiated with offical US Government documents. All the other points in the letter can be substantiated with offical USG documents.

Donna Long

END QUOTE

Comments

Point 1 (later deleted)

In spite of Ms. Long's attempt to correct things . . . well . . . not exactly.

In fact, the problem with the deleted point is NOT that it "can not be substantiated with official US government documents;" the problem is that the deleted point is completely contrary to the official record.  There were never any reports or sightings of Captain Apodaca by returned POWs or anyone else.  Makes one wonder, if Ms. Alfond will include this false commentary, exactly what else will she include.

So much for that.  Now, let's deal with the heart of the matter and that is the identification of the very small quantity of remains.

The dog tag

Several years before US teams began investigating and excavating the Apodaca-Busch crash site the Vietnamese turned over a map encased in a plastic cover and a mangled dog tag with Captain Apodaca's name on it; read about those artifacts here.

The dog tag (and the map, for that matter) is irrelevant to the identification.   The presence of the dog tag proves that there is a dog tag with Captain Apodaca's name on it, period.

The provenance of the remains

Ms. Alfond is correct in her claims about the chain of custody of the remains.   There is no chain of custody through American hands from the crash site to US possession.  The remains that were eventually tested and identified as Captain Apodaca were turned over by the Vietnamese who stated they recovered them from an individual who was trafficking in human remains.  All this is outlined in the document located at this link.

The comments about non-human or animal bones are irrelevant.  Non-human bones were discarded and not tested.

The DNA tests

Ms. Alfond's comments on the DNA testing are misleading in the extreme; the following section deals with the DNA testing and it is that testing that provides conclusive evidence that the small quantity of remains are the mortal remains of Captain Victor Apodaca, USAF. 

DNA testing

Follow this link to an article describing the identification process.  That article has a section on DNA testing as well as a link to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL).

DNA is a long, complex molecule.  Certain regions of this molecule are similar throughout the human species; other regions of the molecule vary depending on one's ethnic ("racial") background; while certain regions of the molecule are unique to a single family of individuals.  It is this individually-unique area on which DNA testing focuses. 

Complicating matters are the fact that there are two types of DNA: nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Nuclear DNA is in the nucleus of the cell and it decays as the flesh decays. MtDNA is in the mitochondria, or the wall, of the cell. It survives for a long time and can be recovered from bones.  And, here is an important point: mtDNA is transmitted through the maternal line. Thus, your mtDNA will match the DNA of your mother, your sisters and brothers, your sisters' female children (but not your brothers'), and your grandmother but not of your father.    MtDNA testing is destructive. A small piece of the bone is cut off and treated with chemicals, basically dissolving it in the process.   To prepare for DNA testing, body fluids -- saliva, blood, or both -- are collected from a maternal relative and DNA is extracted from those samples.  mtDNA is extracted from the skeletal remains and the two are compared.

Results of Captain Apodaca's mtDNA testing

This link is a copy of the memorandum from AFDIL describing the results of testing on the remains thought to be those of Captain Apodaca. 

"By October, 2000 the bone and the Apodaca blood sample matched 5 others in the mt-DNA database."

This statement by Ms. Alfond is not correct and is misleading in the extreme; let's review more information. 

In late 2001, I submitted to the DOD a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information relating to the identification of Captain Apodaca's remains.  I received those documents in February 2002 (after paying the fee to reproduce the documents).   The documents posted on this web site came from that FOIA request.  Reproduced below are two interesting charts found in the material from AFDIL that was included in the FOIA response. 

Number of observations

Specimen   No. bases obtained USC
(n=540)
EC
(n=100)
AA
(n=103)
AC
(n=115)
AF
(n=115)
H
(n=97)
AS
(n=57)
Total
(N=1127)
Left ilium (1) (AFDIL ID # deleted for privacy) 609 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Whole blood from Apodaca family member (AFDIL ID # deleted for privacy) 612 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

(1)  The item identified as the LEFT ILIUM is the bone under test as possibly being the remains of CAPT Apodaca.

Specimen   No. bases obtained AFAM
(n=794)
AFSL
(n=110)
AFEG
(n=24)
CAUC
(n=1773)
HIS
(n=693)
JPN
(n=163)
KOR
(n=182)
THAI
(n=70)
NAV
(n=152)
APA
(n=180)
Total
(N=4141)
Left ilium (1) (AFDIL ID # deleted for privacy) 609 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 3 1 5
Whole blood from Apodaca family member (AFDIL ID # deleted for privacy) 612 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 3 1 5

In these charts:

bulletNo. of bases obtained means the number of unique DNA "bases" -- identifying elements -- that were obtained during the testing.  There are approximately 610 bases in a complete DNA sequence.
bulletNumber of observations means the number of occurrences of the specimen sequence information when compared to a database of unrelated individuals in a specific population.  (That is, how many times portions of the DNA molecule under test are similar to portions of DNA molecules in a specific population.)
bulletThis is what the letters across the top rows mean: 
bulletTop chart:  US Caucasian (USC), English Caucasian (EC), African-American (AA), Afro-Caribbean (AC), African (AF), Hispanic (HIS), and Asian (AS).
bulletBottom chart:  African-American (AFAM), African-Sierra Leone (AFSL), Egyptian (AFEG), Caucasian (CAUC), Hispanic (HIS), Japanese (JPN), Korean (KOR), Thai (THAI), Navajo (NAV), Apache (APA).
bulletThere are two charts because the mtDNA from the remains under study and the DNA from the Apodaca family member were compared to two major databases each containing subsets unique to different population groups.

It is from these charts that Ms. Alfond gets her claim that the mtDNA from the remains under study "matched 5 others in the DNA database."  Not exactly.   What this means is that the mtDNA from the remains under study and the DNA from the family member had areas of similarity with five samples in three distinct database subsets:   Hispanic, Navajo, and Apache.  The Apodaca family is from the Southwest United States and is, indeed, of Hispanic-Navajo-Apache extraction.  This fact, plus the facts that (1) one mtDNA/DNA sequence was unique to the sample under test and to the family member sample; and (2) the mtDNA from the remains under test and the DNA from the family member match across the board leads to the conclusion cited in the AFDIL memo.

Finally, one more item of information must be considered.  In identifying remains recovered from the old battlefields of SEAsia, there is no need to compare mtDNA from those remains to the DNA database of the entire human population.  Why not?  Because there are fewer than 2,000 individuals missing in SEAsia and when remains are recovered, they can be only the remains of one of those people.  MtDNA recovered from remains under test need only be compared with mtDNA of family members of missing men.   This simple fact is too often obscured by those who want to call into question the entire DNA testing process -- Ms. Alfond being one of the ringleaders.

So, folks, there you have it.  Read my articles, read the material on Ms. Alfond's National Alliance web site, and decide for yourselves.