12/31/1920 – 3/16/09 Branch: Army Air Corps Rank: Colonel Unit: 8th Air Force Outfit: 2nd Air Division Service Dates: 1942 – 1972 County: Pettis City: Sedalia, MO Conflicts/Significant Events: World War II, Korea,Vietnam. After the attack on Pearl Harbor Puff enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps (which later became the United State Air Force) on Aug 6, 1942 in Des Moines, IA. During his career as a pilot in the USAF he flew B-24’s, B-25’s, B-29’s, B-36’s, B-47’s and B-52’s. He logged over 10,000 flying hours. From 1970 until his retirement Sep 1, 1972 he served as Base Commander at Whiteman Air Force Base. His many awards included Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with Three Oak Leaf Clusters, Presidential Unit citation with One Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Story uploaded: Saturday, September 29, 2007 / updated Tuesday, September 19, 2023
Unknown no longer, Lt. Michael Blassie was laid to rest on Saturday July 11th, 1998 in Missouri soil, under a Traditional VA Memorial bearing his name at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery near his childhood home, over the hill from the Mississippi River. Lt. Michael Blassie was listed as Missing in Action on May 11, 1972, when his Air Force Jet was shot down near An Loc, South Vietnam near the Cambodian border. Then for fourteen years, from 1984 through 1998 Mike’s remains rested in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery representing those MIA from the Vietnam War. The full military funeral was held under gray skies and attended by hundreds of veterans, friends, relatives and well-wishers, including Secretary of Defense William Cohen. A formation of four F-15 jets flew overhead, and one of the four broke away in the traditional “missing man” salute. “He was strong, he was fearless, and he loved what he was doing,” said Patricia Blassie, one of the flier’s four siblings, all of whom spoke at the graveside service. “He was the heart, the soul and the spirit that is America.” Blassie was 24 years old and a highly decorated Air Force pilot. The fighting was so intense in the area that the site could not be searched immediately. When remains were found in October 1972 the bones were tentatively identified as those of Blassie, based on an identification card and other effects. But by 1980, that classification was changed to “unknown.” On Memorial Day, 1984, the remains were buried at the Tomb of the Unknowns alongside unknown servicemen from World War I, World War II and Korea. An investigation by CBS News prompted the Defense Department to review the case. Blassie’s remains were disinterred and a sample of mitochondrial DNA was removed from the pelvis and matched to a sample provided by the flier’s mother, Jean. The remains were brought to St. Louis on Friday, and relatives and friends gathered at Scott Air Force base, near his hometown of Florissant, a suburb north of St. Louis. A memorial service was held on Friday night at a Roman Catholic church. “This has meant so much to us,” George Blassie, Blassie’s brother, said during Friday’s service. “We believe Michael would have been proud of how we pulled together to bring him home.” The grave site is in the oldest part of the 172-year-old cemetery, and is surrounded by the graves of veterans of World War I and World War II, including several containing remains of more than one person. Ms. Blassie, who is a captain in the Air Force Reserve, explained the family’s quest to identify her brother’s remains and to bury him close to home. “I kept searching my soul and asking myself what was so important about just six bones,” she said. “But the answer came from my heart. It’s important because it’s my brother.”
On behalf of Missouri Governor Michael L. Parson, the Blassie Family, the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) Class of 1970 and the Jefferson Barracks POW MIA Museum Board of Directors, please join us on Tuesday, May 11, 2021 for the Lt Michael Blassie Day Virtual Event.
Governor Parson has proclaimed May 11, 2021 as LT MICHAEL BLASSIE DAY “in Missouri in Honor of Missouri’s son U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie, and in Honor of all our Missing and Unaccounted For and their Families who bear or who have born the burden, mostly in anonymity, of great personal loss and agonizing uncertainty.”
During this Virtual Event you will hear from Governor Parson along with seven of Michael’s classmates from the USAFA Class of 1970. Also, a stunning plaque from the Class of 1970 will be unveiled and dedicated to the Lt Michael Blassie Memorial Room at the Jefferson Barracks POW MIA Museum.
At 24 years old, Michael was shot down and killed over An Loc, Vietnam on May 11, 1972, during one of the most intense battles of the Vietnam War. Unbeknownst to the Blassie family, Michael was found and eventually interred as the Vietnam Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 1984.
Due to overwhelming evidence within official government documents indicating the Vietnam Unknown Soldier was Michael, the Blassie family requested that the remains from the Tomb be disinterred to perform DNA testing. The family’s request was honored. The DNA test proved that the Unknown Soldier was Michael allowing the family to bring him home to his final resting place at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, July 11, 1998.
3/19/1932 – 8/27/2021 Branch: Air Force Rank: Airmen 3C Service Dates: 1951-1953 County: Saline Conflicts/Significant Events: Korea, Saw General Eisenhower Candidate For President Story uploaded/modified: September 11, 2008/December 24th, 2021
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