The Dover Air Force Base mortuary for years disposed of some dead troops’ body parts by burning them and dumping the ashes in a Virginia landfill, a practice that officials have since abandoned in favor of burying the remains at sea.
The Dover mortuary, which is the main point of entry for all of America’s war dead and is under investigation for mishandling remains, sent remains to the landfill from 2003 until 2008, according to Air Force officials. The manner of disposal was typically withheld from the relatives of fallen service members.
Air Force officials acknowledged the practice Wednesday in response to inquiries from The Washington Post. They said the procedure was limited to portions of body parts that were unable to be identified at first or were later recovered from the battlefield, and which family members had indicated could be disposed of by the military.
Lt. Gen. Darrell G. Jones, the Air Force’s deputy chief for personnel, said the body parts were first cremated, then incinerated, and then taken to a landfill by a military contractor. He could not explain why both cremation and incineration were necessary, but likened the process to disposing of medical waste.