Forensics, Archaeology Techniques Used in MIA Search

James Card in Daegu, South Korea
for National Geographic News
November 17, 2006

During his first-ever visit to Vietnam, U.S. President George W. Bush met this week with the country's leaders to discuss how lessons learned during the Vietnam War could be applied to the current conflict in Iraq.

One of the many topics under discussion was how U.S. and Vietnamese officials could better cooperate on retrieving information about the approximately 1,300 military personnel who are still considered missing in action (MIA) after the war ended in 1975.

As part of this effort, President Bush's agenda included a visit with a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC).

JPAC teams work at sites around the world, searching for clues about the fates of the nearly 88,000 U.S. soldiers who have been listed as MIA since the end of World War II.

JPAC's motto is "Until they are home," and it is responsible for recovering the remains of MIA soldiers, whether they died during the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania or the early 1990s Gulf War in the Middle East.

(Related news: "Clues Emerge About Crewmen of Civil War-Era Wreck" [April 4, 2005].)

Tough Decisions

JPAC, based at Hickam Air Force Base in Oahu, Hawaii, has 18 teams working in rotation, opening and closing 70 to 90 sites a year.

This summer a JPAC team endured the sweltering humidity of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to recover the remains of soldiers lost during the Korean War, which officially lasted from 1950 to 1953.

(See photos of the Korean DMZ from National Geographic Magazine.)

Of the 54,000 U.S. soldiers reported missing during the Korean War, the death, capture, or whereabouts of 8,142 soldiers are still unknown.

This year's expedition "was our first joint mission side-by-side with the Korean military," said JPAC member and Marine Corps Captain Michael Craighead.

Continued on Next Page >>


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