Pentagon agency accused of refusing to ID Honored Dead of WWII

posted at 1:01 pm on August 3, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

If there is any validity to this story whatsoever, somebody in Washington needs to be held to account immediately. On Thursday, Congress grilled the leadership of the Joint Prisoner of War / Missing in Action Command (JPAC) over fiscal waste, a lack of clear leadership focus, and a general failure to perform their jobs at a suitable level. And JPAC has a critical job to do – one which I would hope every person in the country with an ounce of patriotic blood in their veins would support without question. They are responsible for finding and/or identifying the remains our military members lost in war and bring them home, offering closure to the families and giving the Honored Dead the recognition they deserve.

Unfortunately, it sounds like the criticism was mostly falling on deaf ears.

Leaders of the military’s POW/MIA recovery operations dismissed reports of rampant inefficiency and infighting in a Capitol Hill appearance Thursday, insisting that mostly minor changes will address public concerns about their work.

But furious lawmakers called that approach a disservice to fallen troops and their families, demanding larger changes and more proof that money being spent on the recovery efforts isn’t being wasted.

By all accounts, the committee wasn’t having any of it. In fact, Claire McCaskill was furious and Kelly Ayotte read them the riot act.

Maj. Gen. W. Montague Winfield, who oversees DPMO, said the two reports show “the need to take a look at our structure,” but not necessarily the need for total overhaul of operations…

“You’ve been looking and looking at this for 20 years,” Ayotte said. “We need to go beyond just looking. We need results.”

“If you don’t show results, the money will go away,” McCaskill said. “That’s the reality of the financial situation today.”

This investigative report from NBC news – which I suggest all of you read in its entirety – features complaints from Rick Stone, who joined JPAC after he retired from a career in law enforcement. He claims that he can quickly identify many of the Honored Dead buried as unknowns at one WW2 cemetery in Hawaii at very little cost. But the agency wouldn’t let him proceed because of bureaucratic nonsense.

Rick Stone stands in a volcanic crater overlooking Pearl Harbor, in the military cemetery known as the Punchbowl. Looking around him, it’s easy to spot the graves marked “Unknown.” They’re the ones where no relatives bring flowers.

Standing beside one marker, Stone says its occupant isn’t unknown to him. He is “100 percent” sure this is the grave of Earl Leroy Morrison, who was killed on the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor.

More than 2,000 U.S. unknown soldiers from World War II are buried in this cemetery alone, among the more than 8,500 unknowns from World War II interred in U.S. military cemeteries worldwide.

But a Pentagon agency has refused to conduct DNA tests to determine once and for all whose bones are in the graves of the unknowns, even when its own investigators say they have narrowed it down to only one possible match.

Stone has been using such “questionable” tactics and analysis as matching the initials on a cigarette case found on the body of one sailor off the Arizona to the initials of the only unaccounted for sailor from that ship who had those initials. Yet the agency would not approve a request to ask the family for DNA to make the match. In another case, he identified one set of remains from an extremely short American with medium ash brown hair, killed in battle on the Pacific island of Tarawa. Of the missing from that fight, it narrowed his search down to only two heroes, one enlisted and one an officer. The body had officer insignia in a pocket of the uniform. How would you not pursue a match like that? Yet the agency again refused. In fact, as you’ll find in his report, JPAC refused each and every one of his more than 100 requests for DNA match testing, saying that they wouldn’t be doing any more research based on “biometric” data investigations. And these investigations are far, far cheaper than the agency’s many excursions to far off jungles to look for fragments. (That’s important work too, don’t get me wrong. But if we can quickly ID some of the bodies we already have in unmarked graves, how can we not pursue this if the families are willing?)

This is outrageous. Somebody needs a good dressing down at JPAC and some firm directives to get this job done and done right.


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“somebody in Washington needs to be held to account immediately.”

AH…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Dat funny, really funny.

PappyD61 on August 3, 2013 at 1:10 PM

Plus this

Schadenfreude on August 3, 2013 at 1:13 PM

Why do your jobs, when you can have so much fun with homosexual hookups in today’s new gay military?

Rebar on August 3, 2013 at 1:14 PM

On the one hand, I understand the desire to identify people’s remains.

On the other hand, something in me recoils at the wholesale digging up of corpses that have been at rest for decades already.

AngusMc on August 3, 2013 at 1:23 PM

They’ve been finding and identifying MIAs from overseas pretty frequently, but I don’t get why they don’t ID our brave men who are in known graves.

Then there’s the cremated remains of thousands of Veterans in funeral homes across the country. If I remember correctly, there’s a few private organizations trying to contact next of kin so they can be received and/or interred properly.

The Veterans can be buried in any national cemetery free of charge, but I guess the problem is the cost of the cremation. If the funeral homes aren’t compensated I suppose they can hold on to those remains until they’re paid?

The relatives of those Veterans who the VA determines died of service-connected issues can file and receive compensation for the cremation costs at a later date, but I tell you from my own experience you’re looking at about a year for them to get around to processing such a claim.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 3, 2013 at 1:25 PM

Oh, and the VA will also compensate travel expenses involved in travel to and from that national cemetery for interment purposes, but I don’t know what the maximum allowable is right off hand.

I can only imagine that many families cannot afford the initial outlay of these costs.

It would be great if the VA or the various services, National Guard, etc. got involved with this issue of these Veterans not being claimed and properly interred.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 3, 2013 at 1:30 PM

And JPAC has a critical job to do – one which I would hope every person in the country with an ounce of patriotic blood in their veins would support without question.

I agree that the work needs to be done, but EVERY government agency should be questioned. Always.

Flange on August 3, 2013 at 1:40 PM

Somebody needs a good dressing down at JPAC and some firm directives to get this job done and done right.

No, some bureaucrats need their asses FIRED!

GarandFan on August 3, 2013 at 1:46 PM

The message and agenda comes from the top – and I’m afraid that there is little interest / attention / priorities set from the top leadership in this Administration to honor our fallen….unless they can be used as a political prop.

Athos on August 3, 2013 at 1:55 PM

This investigative report from NBC news – which I suggest all of you read in its entirety –

Would that be the Zimmerman NEN call tape editing NBC? Or maybe the NBC in MSNBC?

How will I know what is true and what isn’t?

How would I know I’m not wasting my time reading that?

farsighted on August 3, 2013 at 1:56 PM

And JPAC has a critical job to do – one which I would hope every person in the country with an ounce of patriotic blood in their veins would support without question.

LOL. Sometimes you’re such a hack, Jazz. Quit begging me to disagree with your supreme moral authority card-waving taunts.

Dusty on August 3, 2013 at 2:00 PM

I am deeply saddened to see this. I was a member of JPAC’s forerunner unit, Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA) back when JTF-FA began in 1992 with a mission of accounting for MIA’s from Vietnam. The unit certainly had some issues when I was there, but the people were genuine in their desire to provide families with as honest an accounting as was possible of missing and repatriated servicemen. This is very, very troubling to see.

Bitter Clinger on August 3, 2013 at 2:08 PM

The message and agenda comes from the top – and I’m afraid that there is little interest / attention / priorities set from the top leadership in this Administration to honor our fallen….unless they can be used as a political prop.

Athos on August 3, 2013 at 1:55 PM

This.

We of the cranky right need to face reality — the entire fed gubmint is now a political weapon serving the lib/prog/commie leftists. IRS, NSA, DoJ, CIA, DoAg, DoI, DHS, etc. ad nauseum.

And then there’s the military.

What a sad slide it has been. And we ain’t hit bottom yet.

platypus on August 3, 2013 at 2:28 PM

[Bitter Clinger on August 3, 2013 at 2:08 PM]

Well then, maybe you could give some insight to why they wouldn’t be following through on Stone’s conclusions.

I can see there being issues which make this work less of a priority, but I can’t see why a simple program of putting these things on a list, earmarking a portion of that office’s budget to the program, and and taking care of 4 or 5 of them each year until they are finished. Do certain wars have a priority? Is there too much Congresscritter pressure to do specific missions either because of their own political machinations or as payoffs for certain quid pro quos? What are the likely problems there now?

Dusty on August 3, 2013 at 2:28 PM

Dusty on August 3, 2013 at 2:28 PM

1) POW/MIA flags everywhere gets everyone all riled up about Vietnam, whilst the guyz in the Punch Bowl have NO ONE to speak for them. (Though the whole POW thing was foolish in Vietnam-read Stolen Valor)
2) It’s more “fun” to go to Betio, St. Vith, heck even Hanoi than it is to walk out your back door to the Punch Bowl…walking out the back door isn’t going to boost your budget nearly as much as taking excursions to Pacific isles, France, Germany, Belgium and Vietnam.

JFKY on August 3, 2013 at 2:39 PM

[JFKY on August 3, 2013 at 2:39 PM]

I think you’ve hit on the two reasons overwhelming all others, JFKY.

Dusty on August 3, 2013 at 3:32 PM

Congress grilled the leadership of the [Joint Prisoner of War / Missing in Action Command (JPAC) fill in the blank with any federal agency] over fiscal waste, a lack of clear leadership focus, and a general failure to perform their jobs at a suitable level.

rrpjr on August 3, 2013 at 3:41 PM

Plus this

Schadenfreude on August 3, 2013 at 1:13 PM

Goats – doing the jobs illegal aliens won’t do.

My rage-meter is pinning. Allowing these immortal souls to go unidentified is an insult, abomination and an atrocity.

Rixon on August 3, 2013 at 3:48 PM

On the one hand, I understand the desire to identify people’s remains.

On the other hand, something in me recoils at the wholesale digging up of corpses that have been at rest for decades already.

AngusMc on August 3, 2013 at 1:23 PM

I’m with you on this. Maybe if we only do it for those whose probable identity can be narrowed down to one or two likely possibilities. (As in, here’s a grave with one unknown, and we have evidence to this he’s X, then the exhumation would be appropriate, but not digging up 100 for one or two probables.)

Kevin K. on August 3, 2013 at 4:03 PM

“If you don’t show results, the money will go away,” McCaskill said. “That’s the reality of the financial situation today.”

Yep.

Look at all those other inefficient govt. agencies that had their budgets slashed…

/s

cs89 on August 3, 2013 at 4:22 PM

I assume Maj. Gen. W. Montague Winfield is from Detroit.

jaime on August 3, 2013 at 4:46 PM

Well then, maybe you could give some insight to why they wouldn’t be following through on Stone’s conclusions.

I can see there being issues which make this work less of a priority, but I can’t see why a simple program of putting these things on a list, earmarking a portion of that office’s budget to the program, and and taking care of 4 or 5 of them each year until they are finished. Do certain wars have a priority? Is there too much Congresscritter pressure to do specific missions either because of their own political machinations or as payoffs for certain quid pro quos? What are the likely problems there now?

Dusty on August 3, 2013 at 2:28 PM

When I was there (1992-1995), our mission was strictly Vietnam (though there was talk of expanding to other conflicts at the time I left). In fact, JTF-FA was created as the Vietnam POW/MIA issue was getting a lot of attention. Much of the attention was due to fact that there was a push by some to normalize relations with Vietnam (which did occur under Clinton in ’93 or ’94 while I was still there) and our oversight was a Select Senate Committee with 2 very well-known members, McCain & Kerry). So, yes, Vietnam vets and their organizations make the most noise, hence, the Vietnam War MIA’s are no doubt getting prioritized.

Also, at the time I was there, our unit handled the investigations of MIA’s, while a separate unit, Central Identification Lab-Hawaii or CILHI, handled the identification of remains. The units were on separate Hawaii bases, JTF-FA at Camp Smith and CILHI at Hickam AFB. Around 2003, it was decided to merge the 2 units because their missions were so intertwined with each other. JPAC was created from this merger. It is likely that political pressure to focus on Vietnam (and possibly any MIA’s from Afghanistan/Iraq) over Korea and WWII along with a less-than smooth merger of the 2 aforementioned units has played a role in the degradation of their work.

Bitter Clinger on August 3, 2013 at 4:58 PM

And JPAC has a critical job to do – one which I would hope every person in the country with an ounce of patriotic blood in their veins would support without question.

I agree that the work needs to be done, but EVERY government agency should be questioned. Always.

Flange on August 3, 2013 at 1:40 PM

I believe that he was saying that the mission should be supported without question. (With which I happen to agree.)

The agency, obviously, has a lot of questions to answer…and should be held to account for every instance of not performing their duty.

Solaratov on August 3, 2013 at 5:10 PM

How would I know I’m not wasting my time reading that?

farsighted on August 3, 2013 at 1:56 PM

The same way you’d know if you were just being an ass.

Solaratov on August 3, 2013 at 5:11 PM

And JPAC has a critical job to do – one which I would hope every person in the country with an ounce of patriotic blood in their veins would support without question.

LOL. Sometimes you’re such a hack, Jazz. Quit begging me to disagree with your supreme moral authority card-waving taunts.

Dusty on August 3, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Yeah. All that rah-rah patriotic stuff…

Bite it, assclown.

Solaratov on August 3, 2013 at 5:14 PM

Those responsible for identifying these unknowns should dragged over hot coals for not doing their job.

SC.Charlie on August 3, 2013 at 5:28 PM

The use of goats for lawncare goes back to before the invention of the lawnmower in the 19th century. It works.

SC.Charlie on August 3, 2013 at 5:40 PM

On property that I own (its been in my family for around 200 years) …………. I take pride in maintaining a mass grave of Revolutionary patriots who were victims of a massacre by loyalists. It is far off the beaten track, but every now and then some people want to visit it.

SC.Charlie on August 3, 2013 at 6:01 PM

It always works best to put people in charge who want to get the job done, not just do a job. So to fix the problem, put Rick Stone (or someone like him) in charge of DPMO.

taznar on August 4, 2013 at 10:28 PM

I’m not saying this isn’t happening at JPAC but to base your entire blog entry on the testimony of one person in an NBC report makes this very biased and does not present anything from the other side, Jazz. JPAC leadership will go in front of the Senate committee this week and I would’ve probably waited until then so we can see what they have to say.
When I was on active duty, I knew a couple folks that did tours at JTF-FA and although it was grueling work going to Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia in extreme heat, walking up steep hillsides or through thick jungles based on a tip from a local of say a possible aircraft crash site, only to be totally disappointed in finding nothing in the way of remains, they took their jobs seriously and felt honored to be able to do it. What serviceman or woman wouldn’t?

RMCS_USN on August 4, 2013 at 10:52 PM