WASHINGTON — The remains of three World War II soldiers were returned to their families this week, underscoring a year where analysts and technicians continued to identify rising numbers of military remains.
Bernard Doyle, who served in the Navy, and Melvin Anderson, who served in the Army, were returned to relatives in Nebraska. Harry Carlsen, who served in the Marines, was returned to relatives in Chicago.
The three were among 203 missing U.S. military personnel identified and accounted for during fiscal year 2018, which ended on Sept. 30.
“We are in an upward trend,” Chuck Prichard, a spokesperson for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), told TMN.
There were 183 personnel accounted for in fiscal 2017 and 161 in fiscal 2016, Prichard said. That compares to 59 in fiscal 2013.
DPAA was formed in January 2015, when the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office merged.
Prichard said that roughly 34,000 of the 81,428 individuals missing from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and cold war conflicts are recoverable — meaning “there is a good chance that remains can be found in some form or fashion.”
Being recoverable does not guarantee identification, DPAA reminds families.
The DPAA is charged with assisting the collection of remains from World War II and subsequent conflicts, then taking the lead in identifying them.
Navy Seaman Doyle of Red Cloud, Neb., was killed during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. He was 19.
Marine Tech Sgt. Carlsen of Omaha died at 31 in November 1943
during the Battle of Tarawa in the Pacific.
Army Sgt. Anderson of Brookfield, Ill., also was killed at 31. He died on Nov. 25, 1944, in the fight in Hürtgen Forest in Germany.
Prichard said many of the cases begin with a historian or analyst digging through a file cabinet or a family member discovering some information that can steer DPAA experts to a location or remains.
For example, Prichard said the DPAA European team has an analyst devoted to Italy and World War II. His work often centers on local area burial records for prisoner-of-war camps, as well villages and towns where Italian citizens provided burials for fallen Allied soldiers.
“He combs through everything he can find and develops what he thinks may be viable information on sites to be excavated,” Prichard said.
With advances of scientific techniques, some remains that were once not suitable for testing now can be examined to see if identification can be made, Prichard said. That leads investigators to locations on Pacific Islands, where U.S. personnel were sometimes buried without identifications, or mausoleums where unknown remains are being sheltered.
Organizations that actively search locations also provide tips — and in some cases pressure — to DPAA to bring in its experts.
“When we go look for them, we have ways to figure out who they might be,” Prichard said.