GERMANY Sept. 1, 2015 marks the 76th anniversary of the Germany invasion of Poland, which led Britain and France to declare war against Germany. During the period from 1939 to 1945 approximately 400,000 U.S. military service members lost their lives. Many of those service members were brought home to the United States for proper burials, but more than 73,000 missing Americans from the war still remain unaccounted for and are considered “Missing in Action” (MIA).
After WWII ended in 1945, the U.S. Government propositioned an effort toward the recovery of those MIA's and developed an initiative known as, “The Return of World War II Dead Program” which primarily focused its efforts on finding the locations of aircraft crash sites, disinterment of temporary military grave sites and researching records on former battlefields in order to locate those left behind.
Over the years, the U.S. Government continued the recovery efforts and stood up the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) on January 2015. DPAA was created in order to strengthen and consolidate the DoD's global investigation and recovery efforts for American service members, while at the same time increasing their overall capabilities as an organization.
Members of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and United States military volunteers gather for a group picture during a DPAA recovery mission near Riechelsdorf, Germany on Sept. 11, 2015. The team is in search of five MIAs that were lost in a B-24 crash from WWII in an effort to properly identify the services members and return them back to the United States. DPAA is a newly organized Department of Defense agency that's primary mission is to achieve full accountability of U.S. service members that lost their lives during past conflicts and bring closure to the families of those service members. (DoD News photo by USAF SSgt Brian Kimball)
“Number one priority is as we work through our reorganization is to maintain the mission and our ongoing operations. 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.” U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Linnington (Ret.), the recently appointed director of DPAA, said during a radio interview.
And that is exactly what is currently taking place. The same day and month that marked the beginning of Britain's and France's involvement in WWII in 1939, is the same day this year that three DPAA teams performed recovery missions within the European theater in the search of American WWII MIA's.
One particular team near the area of Riechelsdorf, Germany is searching for five missing servicemen that bravely went down with their Consolidated B-24 Liberator in September, 1944. The team has successfully recovered osseous material along with personal effects and life support equipment from the wreckage, but still much more meticulous work is waiting 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 archaeologist and recovery leader with DPAA, leads this specific recovery team and takes the job very seriously.
“Our specialist will look at all lines of evidence to make sure a legally sound identification for the individuals we are recovering,” Ingraham stated.
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 to enhance their global recovery efforts.
Over the years, some of the families of the missing services member do not get the opportunity to receive the closure that they have so long hoped for, but the fight is not over, and the U.S. service members of today have made a commitment to not stop “Until they are Home”.
More photos available below
By USAF SSgt Brian Kimball
DOD News / Defense Media Activity
Comment on this article