Military Baffled by Disappearance of U.S. Soldier Near East Germany
FRANKFURT, West Germany (AP) _ The U.S. Army said Thursday it is baffled by the disappearance of a ″good, clean-cut″ American soldier who had access to classified information and vanished near the East German border.
An Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Jake Dye, said there was not enough information to say if Spec. 4 Michael A. Peri had defected. Dye acknowledged a portable computer was missing from an intelligence office where Peri worked.
Peri, of Laguna Niguel, Calif., has been listed as ″absent without leave″ since he failed to show up for work Feb. 21 at the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Fulda, 65 miles northeast of Frankfurt.
Two days later, officials searching for Peri found his U.S. Army vehicle undamaged near the border town of Obersuhl, about 35 miles northeast of Fulda.
″Peri was authorized to drive the vehicle and had logged it out properly,″ Dye said.
Stars and Stripes, the Army’s unofficial newspaper, quoted Dye as saying ″the circumstances of that vehicle being found so close to the border are definitely suspicious.″
Dye told The Associated Press later the newspaper was putting it ″a little too strongly,″ but he didn’t deny making the statement.
Peri worked as an electronics warfare signal specialist and was responsible for operating equipment that identifies and locates non-communicatio ns signals, such as radar. He has been stationed in West Germany since March 4, 1988.
Asked about the possibility Peri defected, Dye said, ″We certainly have no reason to believe that. There were no signs of distress according to his colleagues and family. We just don’t have any indications.″
Peri had an ″active normal social life″ and a ″perfect record as a good clean-cut soldier,″ Dye said.
″In fact, he had been promoted and nominated for ‘Soldier of the Month’ twice in the year he has been here,″ Dye added. ″That’s what makes it so baffling. From all indications, everybody in his unit has the same feelings. They’re all very surprised.″
Dye confirmed the Stars and Stripes report that a portable computer was missing from the office where Peri had worked. But Dye said Peri ″had not progressed very far in computers except for basic word processing.″
A search of Peri’s living quarters showed he had left his personal belongings behind, Dye said.
The spokesman said investigators are looking into all possibilites, including foul play.
In March 1987, former U.S. Pvt. Wade E. Roberts defected with his West German girlfriend to the Soviet Union from a U.S. Army unit in Giessen, about 40 miles north of Frankfurt. Roberts returned to the United States in November 1987 and was court-martialed as a deserter.