The National Alliance of Families For the Return of America’s Missing Servicemen posted their October newsletter recently. It is available here.
Just a few minutes ago they posted an emergency update which calls for everyone’s immediate attention.
Updated October 10, 2014
The one consistent thing in JPAC’s thirty year record of failures is Johnie Webb. Putting him him in charge instead of in jail confirms everyone’s worst fears – DoD does not want to confront the ghosts that come with the MIA’s.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Stack, Alisa M SES OSD OUSD POLICY (US) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 3:27 PM
Subject: New communication roles
To: “Stack, Alisa M SES OSD OUSD POLICY (US)” <email@example.com>
As part of the plan to consolidate the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), and USAF Life Science Equipment Laboratory (LSEL), the budget, communications, and operations functions from each organization will combine into single functions before January 2015. This month, the communication and budget functions are merging into single offices. While the Department of Defense does not discuss employees, because the changes to the communications offices affect you, I’m providing more detail on the individuals involved and their roles and responsibilities.
Mike Fowler is the lead for external communications, which includes media, congressional relations, family member updates, and case questions from family members. He oversees a combined staff in Virginia and Hawaii.
Johnie Webb is leading the implementation of actions related to the ways in which the new agency will communicate with families and interest groups in the future. He is addressing strategic communication, design and purpose of family advisory councils, website and social media presence, and branding issues, including the new agency logo. He will remain in Hawaii with a staff there. They and their teams will have points of intersection, but
largely Mike is dealing with the here and now, and Johnie is helping build the future. In both cases, The Clearing is providing management support and advice. Kai, working with Johnie, will continue to be involved in the future experience. These positions are designed for the transformation period, which extends into next year. As we build the agency, their roles will change.
I am very thankful to both Johnie and Mike for taking on these monumental tasks, and am glad to have them as partners.
Director, Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT)
Original Posting Below
While we all wanted to believe that Secretary Hagel’s “reorganization” of the MIA accounting agencies would fix the problems and finally return some of our missing family members, it won’t. In fact, it will very likely make things much worse.
Here’s a copy of DPMO’s “fact sheet” touting their accomplishments (or at least what they think is noteworthy.)
I especially like this part:
“The Department, through the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT), is in the process of designing the new agency. The new agency will simultaneously operate more efficiently and effectively while meeting the expectations of families of missing DoD personnel from past conflicts. These families are DoD’s primary focus, and providing them better service is the goal. Throughout this transformation, all operations and activities pertaining to existing personnel accounting missions will continue.”
Not only are they trying to blow smoke up your shorts, they have placed JPAC’s Director of External Communications, Johnie Webb, in charge of improving communications and the families “experience.” Really. I couldn’t make this up. Next they will hire Kim Jong-un to tell them how to improve their image.
Webb has been continuously assigned to JPAC and its predecessors since 1975 and is, with his fellow clown Tom Holland, widely regarded as the evil mind responsible for the failures in accounting for thousands of missing American servicemembers.
The person in charge of this farce, Alisa Stack, is either stupid or thinks you are. Prior to being named to head the reorganization task force, Ms. Stack was the Principal Deputy Director of DPMO. That worked out well. Under DPMO’s guidance, JPAC averaged fewer than seventy-five identifications per year. Now, during her three year reorganization they have cut the number of identifications by two-thirds to only those remains which are handed to them or they find accidentally. For all practical purposes, accounting for missing American GI’s has come to a screeching halt. We hoped for change and Ms. Stack (or is that Ms. Stake) sure delivered.
If these people cared about the “family experience” they would have returned our missing family members a long time ago. But now, to appoint the very person who has taken every opportunity to insult, mislead and lie to family members to the position responsible for fixing the problem is just the height of arrogance.
She doesn’t care, but if you’d like to share your thoughts with Ms. Stack, her email address is – firstname.lastname@example.org
Her deputy is Ross Brown and his email address is – email@example.com He doesn’t care either.
If you want to cover all the bases, Ms. Stack’s boss, Undersecretary of Defense Christine Wormuth, won’t read or care about your email, either, but her address is –
Only the U.S. Government could so poorly execute the honorable mission of returning the remains of missing service personnel. And only the U.S. Government could make things worse by fixing them – and then have the unmitigated gall to brag about what a great job they are doing.
The Newswomen’s Club of New York announced today that ProPublica reporter Megan McCluskey is to be recognized for her series of investigative reports on Defense Department failures in accounting for MIA’s from past wars.
Megan McCloskey won the Front Page Award for Online In-Depth Reporting for her investigation revealing the bureaucratic red tape and poor management slowing the Pentagon’s efforts to identify the thousands of Americans still missing in action from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
While members of our family were not allowed to attend, friends in both Manila and Honolulu observed the exhumation and transfer of the remains of the ten Unknowns originally buried in Grave 717 of the Cabanatuan POW Camp Cemetery. They assured us that it was done with all the respect and dignity befitting the return of any fallen member of the military. All of the exhumations were done in one night to avoid inconvenience to daytime visitors to the cemetery. Apparently, it was quite an ordeal as some of the graves were extraordinarily deep.
All ten of the remains were transported aboard a USAF C17 transport to Joint Base Hickam-Pearl Harbor where they were greeted with a repatriation ceremony. Again, the event was dignified and solemn.
Let’s be very clear about this, JPAC continues to contend that none of the families are allowed to observe the return of the remains until JPAC officially declares the identities. This, even though they are required by DoD policy to have “a high probability of a positive identification” before authorizing the exhumations. A seventy year record of concealing these remains from their families doesn’t end easily.
Our family took comfort in the knowledge that Bud and the other Unknowns were treated just as they would have been if they had come home in 1946. It was very kind of our friends to take the time to keep an eye on things and let us know.
Then, the public aspect of the return over, the remains were taken in to JPAC’s Central Identification Laboratory for examination. That’s where all similarities to the return of other Servicemembers ends. The CIL doesn’t make many identifications each year, but they have lots of visitors and they like to look busy. Here’s a photo of Dr. Tom Holland, his staff and customers in front of their glass walled display room. This is pretty impressive to visitors, but they don’t display the more than 1,300 sets of remains which they have stored in boxes.
I call the place where CIL works their display room because it certainly doesn’t look anything like the Dover Mortuary. Contrast this photo of the Dover AFB Mortuary where all other deceased Servicemembers arrive back in the States. Google “photos Dover Mortuary” and you’ll find lots of photos, but not a single body part of a deceased service member. Dover simply does not allow visitors or photographs when human remains are present.
Because the JPAC CIL has no DNA laboratory, they mutilate the remains by removing large portions from the bones. These portions are sent to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) located next to the Dover AFB Mortuary for DNA analysis. The DNA lab drills a tiny hole in the bone and the cuttings provide all the material needed for analysis. Somewhere between three and twelve months later, the results of the DNA analysis are compared with those of reference samples and the findings reported back to the CIL.
Contrast this to the DNA examination of PFC Lawrence Gordon who was recovered this spring. Because his remains were not interred in an American Battle Monuments Cemetery, JPAC was not allowed to direct the examination, and, in fact they failed to even show up. The civilian forensic laboratory doing this testing reported conclusive results in only five days.
I’ve said it before, JPAC is a disgrace and a stain on the honor of all who have worn the same uniform. There are a lot of good people at JPAC, the problem is the leadership. However, the good people are complicit in dishonoring the dead when they fail to speak out.
It appears that the JPAC Central Identification Lab is open in name only.
Already under fire for identifying the remains of an average of only 75 MIA’s per year – far short of the congressionally mandated 200 identifications per year – their output dropped to only 55 identifications last year.
So far this fiscal year – which ends this month – they have accounted for only 26 MIA’s. What makes this doubly sad is that nearly all of these identifications were either handed to JPAC from outside sources or came from their backlog of more than 1,000 cases stored in their “cardboard box mausoleum.”
The CIL is staffed with anthropologists who are conducting a letter writing campaign demanding that the Secretary of Defense reinstate their hero (and benefactor), Dr. Tom Holland. They are arguing that the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, a medical doctor, cannot identify human remains. Apparently, anthropologists don’t do such a good job of it, either. Perhaps they are to busy updating their resume or perhaps this is some pathetic little temper tantrum.
Meanwhile, thousands of families await word of the fate of their missing family members.
|2014 Accounting Community Recoveries|
|Name of soldier||Country||Found by||Recovered by||Year found|
|William Carneal||Japan (WWII)||Japanese||Japanese||2013|
|John Keller||Korea||Data not released||Data not released||Data not released|
|William Blasdel||Korea||Data not released||Data not released||Data not released|
|Aruther Richardson||Korea||Data not released||Data not released||Data not released|
|Lawrence Gordon||France (WWII)||Private Researchers||Private Researchers||2013|
|Cecil Harris||France (WWII)||France||France/JPAC||2013|
|Randolph Allen||Tarawa||History Flight||History Flight||2013|
|William Bernier||PNG(WWII)||Data not released||Data not released||Data not released|
|Bryant Poulsen||PNG(WWII)||Data not released||Data not released||Data not released|
|Robert McConachie||Data not released||Data not released||Data not released||Data not released|
|Of the 2014 recoveries JPAC has only found 2 soldiers on their own|
|Of the 2014 recoveries JPAC has only participated in the recovery of 5 soldiers|
|Of the 2014 identifications, only 7 of them were recovered in the last 10 years|
Developer in Saipan told that JPAC does not have a budget for the recovery of remains.
The Marianas Variety reports:
THE remains of a possible American soldier have been recovered by Kuentai-USA during an excavation in Achugao yesterday.
Kuentai-USA expedition leader Yukari Akatsuka said they finally got the permit from the Historic Preservation Office yesterday afternoon to start digging after a week’s delay.
“We started digging at 12:40 p.m. and came upon the remains of one possibly American soldier at the site,” Akatsuka said.
Kuentai-USA took the second option offered which was to locate the burial sites, take photos, record the remains and bury them again, Akatsuka said.
Professional surveyors will be called to do further investigation.
“We are expecting to find more remains of soldiers buried in the site as we dig some more and try to find as many as we can in the next few days until September 8,” Akatsuka said.
A non-government organization, Kuentai-USA has been frustrated by the lack of support from the U.S. and CNMI governments.
“It sounds like the U.S. government wants us to bear the cost of recovery for the remains of their dead soldiers. I now wonder if the Hawaii-based Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command really wants to recover the remains of fallen servicemen,” Akatsuka said.
She called someone with the U.S. Department of Defense to ask for advice and assistance, but she was told JPAC does not have a budget for the recovery of remains, and that Kuentai-USA as a non-government organization cannot get any financial support from the U.S. government either.
“This is hopeless. No wonder the remains of 43,000 soldiers who died in the Pacific have not been returned to their families yet,” Akatsuka said. said.
The other option Kuentai-USA was given was to have an archaeologist do the recovery work on behalf of JPAC and when possible remains of American soldiers are recovered, Kuentai-USA must have someone monitor the site to secure the remains during the night. It must also work with a certified professional archeologist and have him or her record the details of the findings by using the methods that JPAC utilizes.
The archeologist must remove the remains from the ground, bring them to HPO for safekeeping and wait until the forensic team from JPAC arrives to do the forensic analysis.
Akatsuka said they were also told that JPAC cannot cover the cost so Kuentai-USA must pay the archeologist $3,000 per burial.
“So we had to go with the other option because we cannot afford to pay the archaeologist that amount,” Akatsuka said.
Kuentai-USA aims to recover the remains of 16 American soldiers who have been listed as missing in action since the end of World War II.
Kuentai-Japan has already discovered four mass graves and retrieved the remains of 780 Japanese soldiers and five American soldiers in Achugao.
Kuentai-USA saw the urgency of working on the recovery mission before the construction of a resort hotel at the site begins.
For more information about Kuentai-USA, visit www.kuentai-usa.com.
The September edition of the National Alliance of Families For the Return of America’s Missing Servicemen is posted at this link:
The National Alliance of Families represents the interests of POW/MIA from all wars and deserves our support.
Today the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas filed a Court required status report advising that, “[T]he disinterment of the ten graves at Manila American Cemetery has been accomplished, and the remains have been transferred to the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii. The remains have been assigned to analysts in the laboratory, initial detailed inventories of the remains are being conducted, and DNA sampling has begun.”
In governmentspeak, this means that they have exhumed the remains of ten Unknowns from the Manila American Cemetery and flown them to the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii. There, the remains have been laid out for display to visitors to the laboratory.
Rather than sending the remains to the Dover AFB Morturary for the same type of examination as a casualty from Afghanistan, JPAC needlessly saws out large chunks of bone which are FedEx’ed to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) for DNA identification. If they are able to immediately begin testing, the results will be available in three to four months.
Our family would like to know why these men of the “Greatest Generation” are not treated with the same courtesy and respect as those who gave their lives for our country just last week. Why are their remains needlessly mutilated and put on public display instead of being released to their families? Why was there no arrival ceremony when these men arrived on U.S. soil?
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel used last week’s POW/MIA Awareness Day address to insult and anger the families of all those still missing in action when he declared:
“For the Department of Defense, this is a responsibility and an obligation that we are proud to shoulder. We do whatever it takes to recover every U.S. servicemember held in captivity; and do whatever it takes to find and recover and identify the remains of America’s missing from past conflicts.”
Secretary Hagel’s full remarks are available at this link.
Secretary Hagel conveniently overlooks the fact that he, two of his predecessors and his department have spent the last five years in litigation to prevent the disinterment of the Unknowns originally buried in Cabanatuan Grave 717. It was only when he was faced with a certain court order to do so that the Department of Defense finally agreed to exhume and identify these men last August.
In fact, the very next speaker, Max Cleland, a former Senator, Secretary of Veterans Affairs and currently the Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission which operates the overseas cemeteries, used the exhumations of Unknowns from the Manila cemetery as examples of his agency’s dedication to identification and return of America’s missing Servicemembers.
Hear Secretary Cleland’s remarks at 2:56 of the video at this link.
Secretary Cleland’s lawyers have admitted in court filings that while the US Government has an obligation to return remains to their families for burial, they disingenuously argue that they have no duty to identify remains – therefore, they don’t have to give them to the families. Even when presented with overwhelming evidence of identity, the ABMC has refused to return remains to family members for burial.
If actions speak louder than words, these government officials have done everything in their power to avoid identifying and returning the remains of America’s missing from past conflicts. They have actively obstructed the return of the missing. Unless they are so out of touch that they don’t know better, Secretaries Hagel and Cleland are a stain on the memories of those who gave their lives in defense of America when they utter such falsehoods.