By John Rutherford, Producer, NBC News, Washington
Dr. Beverly Shaver's husband disappeared over half a century ago, and she still doesn't know what happened to him or whether he's dead or alive.
Navy pilot James Deane's VQ1 reconnaissance plane was shot down on a top-secret mission off the coast of China in 1956, three months after the college sweethearts were married at the age of 24.
"It was obviously devastating when it happened, so soon after my marriage," Dr. Shaver, now 75 and living in Arizona, said in an interview. "I was still writing thank-you notes for wedding gifts that were arriving after our wedding."
Deane is one of 127 Americans listed as missing from the Cold War. Their planes crashed or were shot down while on spy flights over China, the Soviet Union or North Korea in the 1950s and 60s.
"I think most people believe that the 'Cold' War did not involve shooting, or combat, or death, but it did, and these men are missing because of it," said Larry Greer, spokesman for the Pentagon's POW/Missing Personnel Office.
In Deane's case, he is officially listed as missing but declared dead. Dr. Shaver, who remarried, is convinced otherwise.
"I believe he definitely was taken prisoner instead of being killed in the crash of the shootdown over water," she said.
Her efforts to uncover the truth of what happened to her husband have hit a brick wall in both Washington and Beijing.
"I am sure not all the information this government holds on this case has been released or found," she said. "I don't think it's a question of the government just holding back this information from me, deliberately. I would hope not."
As for the Chinese, Dr. Shaver hopes they will return Deane's remains if, as she suspects, he died in captivity.
"Then I would have closure," she said. "That's my hope."
The remains of 19 other Americans killed in the Cold War have been recovered and identified since 1995, according to the Pentagon's Greer:
Robert Snoddy, a CIA pilot, was killed Nov. 29, 1952, in an ambush while trying to extract a CIA agent from China. Two covert CIA officers aboard his C-47, Richard Fecteau and John Downey, were captured by the Chinese and imprisoned until the early 1970s. Snoddy's co-pilot, Norman Schwartz, was also killed in the ambush, but his remains have not been recovered.
Seventeen crew members of an Air Force C-130 were killed when their plane was shot down over Soviet Armenia on Sept. 2, 1958. They were buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Sept. 2, 1998.
Air Force Capt. John Dunham was killed when his RB-29 was shot down by the Soviets over the Sea of Japan in 1954. His buried remains were recovered on one of the Kurile Islands with the help of a KGB border guard.
In addition, James B. McGovern, a.k.a. "Earthquake McGoon," was a CIA pilot who was killed in 1954 supporting the French at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in Indochina. He was buried on May 24, 2007, at Arlington.
Greer said there are hundreds of other remains that have been recovered but not yet identified.
(Photo courtesy Dr. Beverly Shaver)
1. Army Spc. William McMillan III, 22, of Lexington, Ky.
2. Army Sgt. Douglas Bull, 29, of Wilkes Barre, Pa.
3. Army Sgt. 1st Class Steven Chevalier, 35, of Flint, Mich.
4. Army Sgt. Alex Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass.
5. Army Pfc. Byron Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich.
6. Army Spc. Brian Guerrero, 34, of Hagatna, Guam.
7. Army Spc. Samson Mora, 28, of Dededo, Guam.
Washington Producer John Rutherford is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He also posts stories on the military at www.fieldnotes.msnbc.com (click on "John Rutherford" under "categories") and at http://john-rutherford.newsvine.com. The tribute gallery can be found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22802019/.