Members of a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency recovery team excavate
and screen for material evidence during a DPAA recovery mission located
near Riechelsdorf, Germany, Sept. 1, 2015. The team is in search of five
U.S. airmen who were lost in a B-24 crash during World War II in an
effort to properly identify the services members and return their remains
to the United States. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian
photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Kimball DoD News Features, Defense Media
SEMBACH, Germany September 18, 2015 - September 1 marked the 76th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland,
which led Britain and France to declare war against Germany, setting off
World War II.
During the period from 1939 to 1945, approximately 400,000 U.S. service
members lost their lives. Many of those troops were brought home to be buried
in the United States, but more than 73,000 Americans missing from the war
still remain unaccounted for and are considered missing in action.
Streamlining Recovery Efforts
After the war ended in 1945, the U.S. government began an effort to
recover those MIA’s and developed an initiative known as, “The Return of
World War II Dead Program,” which focused its efforts on finding the
locations of aircraft crash sites, disinterment of temporary military
gravesites and researching records on former battlefields in order to locate
those left behind.
Over the years, the recovery efforts continued under a variety of defense
agencies, most recently the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The agency was
established in January to strengthen and consolidate DoD’s global
investigation and recovery efforts for American service members while
increasing their overall capabilities as an organization. The agency
consolidated three organizations: the Defense Prisoner of War Missing
Personnel Office, the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting
Command and the Life Sciences Equipment Laboratory.
“[Our] priority, as we work through our reorganization, is to maintain the
mission and our ongoing operations," said DPAA Director Michael
Linnington, a retired U.S. Army three-star general. "It’s a difficult
task, but it is one that we are proud to be a part of, and we are going to
continue as we move forward.”
And that is exactly what is currently taking place. The day that marked
the beginning of Britain’s and France’s involvement in World War II 76 years
ago is the same day this year that three DPAA teams performed recovery
missions in Europe to help find Americans missing in action from World War
5 Missing Airmen
One team near the area of Richelsdorf, Germany, is searching for five
missing airmen who went down with their B-24 Liberator in September 1944. The
team has successfully recovered bone matter along with personal effects and
life support equipment from the wreckage, but much more work is still to be
done. The recovered items must be analyzed, cataloged and correctly
identified with 100 percent accuracy. Much of that work will be completed at
the DPAA Forensic Identification Lab located at Joint-Base Pearl
Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.
Robert Ingraham, a forensic archeologist and recovery leader with DPAA,
led the recovery team in Germany.
“Our specialist will look at all lines of evidence to [determine] a
legally sound identification for the individuals we are recovering,” he said.
In the future, the organization is making it a priority to increase and
streamline communication efforts with the family members of those who still
have missing loved ones abroad, as well as increase public-private
partnerships that enhance global recovery efforts.
While some families of the missing have not yet received the closure that
they so long hoped for, the people of DPAA have made a commitment to continue
the search, keeping with their motto, “Until they are home.”