A quick path for formerly hostile nations to normalize ties with the U.S. is to cooperate in the search for missing American soldiers, the head of one of the nation’s largest recovery advocacies said Friday.

Ann Mills-Griffiths, chairman of the board of the National League of POW/MIA Families, said “the road to normalization” is paved by helping the U.S. in its accountability for the lost.

A cooling of the tensions between the U.S. and Vietnam has been “a by-product” of cooperation there, Mills-Griffiths said at the Charleston Air Force Base, where national POW/MIA Recognition Day was marked.

Vietnam has been supportive in recent years partially due to the “regional assertiveness” seen by its large and sometimes hostile neighbor, China, she added.

“Very importantly, Vietnam has started releasing archival documents sought persistently by the league and U.S. government for decades,” she said.

Mills-Griffith listed Laos, Myanmar and North Korea as several nations where the files of many missing U.S. servicemen remain open.

The quest to find missing U.S. service members is personal for her. She has a Navy flier brother who is listed as MIA from the Vietnam War, disappearing over North Vietnam in 1966.

In the audience Friday was former POW Paul Hollen, of the Isle of Palms, whose B-17 was shot down over Europe in World War II. He said that unlike the efforts of current remembrance organizations, after his liberation he stayed in touch with very few of his fellow prisoners.

“They were all in different towns, in different parts of the country,” said Hollen, 89.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 927-5551.