JPAC Still A Generation Out of Date

Some pseudo-scientists at JPAC/DPMO are still saying that it is not possible to get nuclear DNA from remains as old as from WWII.  Here is a nuclear DNA testing paper published 7-years ago.  As this peer-reviewed article shows, it was possible to get nuclear DNA from WWII remains back in 2007 and the science has advanced quite a bit since then.  ALL 27 WWII CASES PRODUCED NUCLEAR DNA PROFILES.   So, if someone claims it is not possible to get nuclear DNA from WWII remains that is a demonstratively false statement.  Once again, this was 7-years ago and the science has moved forward quite a bit since then.

In addition, though not discussed in detail here, family references were located and IDs made.  Thus, this type of system worked in the Balkan area of Europe for WWII missing.

DNA identification of skeletal remains from the World War II mass graves uncovered in Slovenia.

2007: Damir Marjanović; Adaleta Durmić-Pasić; Narcisa Bakal; Sanin Haverić; Belma Kalamujić; Lejla Kovacević; Jasmin Ramić; Naris Pojskić; Vedrana Skaro; Petar Projić; Kasim Bajrović; Rifat Hadziselimović; Katja Drobnic; Edwin Huffine; Jon Davoren; Dragan Primorac
Croatian medical journal 2007;48(4):513-9.

Abstract

Aim

To present the joint effort of three institutions in the identification of human remains from the World War II found in two mass graves in the area of Škofja Loka, Slovenia.

Methods

The remains of 27 individuals were found in two small and closely located mass graves. The DNA was isolated from bone and teeth samples using either standard phenol/chloroform alcohol extraction or optimized Qiagen DNA extraction procedure. Some recovered samples required the employment of additional DNA purification methods, such as N-buthanol treatment. QuantifilerTM Human DNA Quantification Kit was used for DNA quantification. PowerPlex 16 kit was used to simultaneously amplify 15 short tandem repeat (STR) loci. Matching probabilities were estimated using the DNA View program.

Results

Out of all processed samples, 15 remains were fully profiled at all 15 STR loci. The other 12 profiles were partial. The least successful profile included 13 loci. Also, 69 referent samples (buccal swabs) from potential living relatives were collected and profiled. Comparison of victims’ profile against referent samples database resulted in 4 strong matches. In addition, 5 other profiles were matched to certain referent samples with lower probability.

Conclusion

Our results show that more than 6 decades after the end of the World War II, DNA analysis may significantly contribute to the identification of the remains from that period. Additional analysis of Y-STRs and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) markers will be performed in the second phase of the identification project.

 

Full article available at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2080561/

DNA Used to Identify Remains in Bosnia

This article, published in 2003 by Stars and Stripes, discusses mtDNA vs nuclear DNA and even how this switch in systems could help with the ID of our missing soldiers. This was from more than a decade ago and even by this time had been used for years in Bosnia.

Analysis technique has greater implications
By Ivana Avramovic
Stars and Stripes
Published: May 11, 2003

The DNA identification program developed in Bosnia and Herzegovina has helped thousands discover the fate of loved ones killed during the war, and will help thousands more.

But its importance does not end at the Balkans’ borders.  The large-scale DNA analysis has far greater implications, said Ed Huffine, director of forensic science with the International Commission for Missing Persons.

Huffine and Gordon Bacon, the ICMP chief of staff, hope the ICMP’s work will prevent potential genocide in the future.  “If you can [identify] thousands of missing, the truth does become known,” Huffine said. “Maybe people will realize that they will be held accountable in the future.”

The ICMP forensics have identified more than 2,000 bodies exhumed from mass graves from across the country. They represent all ethnic groups.

But with the average case costing between $250 and $300 when there is one bone sample and two blood donors, the identification process is very pricey.

In most cases, the remains have come from secondary mass graves, which dramatically increases the cost because it is hard to assemble complete bodies, Huffine said, and DNA tests must be used.

To be able to identify all the bodies, ICMP needs a much larger DNA database from the survivors. Many have emigrated since the end of the war in late 1995 and need to be located to give blood.

“The actual procedure won’t be difficult to establish,” Huffine said. “Funding the procedure may be more of a challenge.”
In the first five years, the tests were done only once the victims had been identified based on their clothing to confirm their identity. Now the process is the exact opposite.

DNA samples from the bones are put into a database along with those from blood donors, and each is given a bar code. Only when there is a match is the victim’s name looked at. Then the surviving family members look at the clothes to confirm the identity.  “Answers are being given to tens of thousands,” Huffine said.

First developed in Bosnia, the system of four interdependent labs, each concentrating on a different element of DNA analysis, was used as the model for the identification of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, Huffine said.

After the terrorist attacks, Huffine was one of the forensics experts working in Bosnia invited by the U.S. Department of Justice to attend a meeting on how to tackle identification of thousands of victims.  He shared the ICMP findings, taking notes and computer programs with him.

When Huffine left his former job with the U.S. military, which involved identifying American troops who died on foreign soil and were buried unidentified, he said scientists were using the mitochondrial DNA, which comes from the maternal line of the family and is more complicated to analyze and get positive identification from, as opposed to the nuclear DNA, a combination of mother’s and father’s DNA, which is used by ICMP in Bosnia today.

Since the beginning of the DNA project in Bosnia, the ICMP scientists have been looking for faster, cheaper and more efficient ways to extract and analyze DNA. They have improved the process of extracting DNA from bone samples and have 90 percent efficiency today, said Jon Davoren, the senior ICMP scientist overseeing the bone processing in Sarajevo.  They have also worked out many of the early computer glitches from two years ago and shared their findings with other scientists.

“What is stopping us from going faster at the moment is the money to do more laboratory tests,” Bacon said.
The ICMP forensics expect to complete processing the backlog of 8,000 bone samples this year.

They could do more DNA analysis if more chemical reagents were available. What they have, they must stretch throughout the year.

Conducting all the DNA tests in Bosnia saves money significantly, once all the materials have been gathered. Bacon, who is in charge of fund-raising, has been trying to work out deals with some of the global mail carriers like DHL and Federal Express to get lower postage rates for thousands of blood samples from the victims’ relatives who have moved abroad since the war.
Different pharmaceutical companies have donated a lot of the chemical reagents or provided them at an extremely reduced cost, said Jenny Ranson, an ICMP spokeswoman.

Still, Bacon’s fund-raising efforts with the governments of the world have resulted in more failures than successes.
There are currently 13 donor nations, led by the United States, which provides 50 percent of the budget, and the Netherlands. Others include Denmark, Finland, Germany, Vatican City, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and British Council and Greece.

Thus far no money has come from the countries of the Muslim world, Bacon said, even though many or most of those the ICMP seeks to identify were Muslims.

Bacon believes the costs of DNA identification should be spread more evenly.  “The nations of the world owe something to the Bosnian people,” said Bacon, who often hears, “You did not help us during the war, you can help us now,” from the survivors.

Identifying the missing would help resolve lingering uncertainty from the Bosnian conflict.
“Without the process of identification continuing, the whole question of conflict resolve will never be solved,” Bacon said

Grave 717 Identification Status Report Filed

Department of Defense confirms that wrong remains were sent to families for burial after World War II.

The government filed another Court mandated status report this week concerning their efforts to identify the Unknowns from Cabanatuan Grave 717. Link to report.

The author was obviously trying to say the minimum possible while still satisfying the Court’s order.  Perhaps these folks have been lying about everything for so long that they just don’t remember how to be honest with MIA family members.

You can read and decide for yourself what it means, but my take on it is that the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) is at least a generation out of date and has very limited capacity.  They seem to be trying to rely on the much older and minimally specific mitochondrial DNA technique rather than the more modern and conclusive nuclear DNA – which is also quicker and less expensive. (This type of testing using nuclear DNA is typically complete in two weeks or less and AFDIL has been working at these for over 90 days.)

You might remember that fourteen men were originally buried in the camp cemetery. Four of them were later identified and returned to their families for burial in the states. The other ten were buried as Unknowns in Manila. It was these ten who were exhumed in August. The preliminary DNA testing found at least one bone from an eleventh person in at least one grave. Considering that all of the small and soft bones were not present, this is hardly extensive commingling and about what I would expect to find.

DoD had previously documented that identification of at least three of the four knowns was erroneous. This DNA testing shows that all four of those identifications were in error. It will be interesting to see if DoD fesses up to these families or if they try to claim that testing of four sets of remains was inconclusive.

This report and the prior report paint a picture of an agency which can’t even do a decent job of collecting family reference samples. Several years ago, I gave them family contacts for all except one of the Unknowns and it was later confirmed to me that they had secured DNA from all of them. For some unexplained reason they no longer have the samples they claimed to have had.  I’m in contact with some of the families they are looking for and they tell me they have not been contacted to provide another sample.

Considering the apparent state of confusion at JPAC, AFDIL and Army Casualty, it is not surprising that they have not wanted to disinter these Unknowns and demonstrate their incompetence.

JPAC Fails Another Recovery

The following article appeared on warfarehistorynetwork.com

A Russian real estate developer plans to construct a condominium development in close proximity to the Battle of Saipan in 1944.

by Mike Haskew

 

Many vestiges of World War II in the Pacific linger, denying the ravages of time.

The battleship USS Missouri, where the war ended nearly 70 years ago, remains as a floating monument and museum at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Not far away, the rusting hulk of the battleship USS Arizona, sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged the United States into World War II, rests in its shallow grave. Nearby, craters left by Japanese bombs, bullet holes from machine guns, and damaged concrete walls remind visitors of that violent day so long ago.

On other islands, rusting tanks, long abandoned guns, the wreckage of aircraft that plunged into jungles, and the remains of honeycombed caves that the defenders of Iwo Jima lived and died in remain as mute testimony to the ferocity of the fighting. A Japanese ghost fleet, sunk during American air raids, lies submerged in the harbor of Truk atoll in the Caroline Islands. Most of these vessels still hold their cargoes of fuel, ammunition, and weapons.

Saipan Today

From time to time the remains of Japanese and American fighting men have been recovered. The repatriation of skeletal remains or their ceremonial cremation and interment have been the subject of widespread media coverage.

Today, on the island of Saipan in the Marianas, the scene of savage fighting during the summer of 1944, a race against time is underway. Members of Kuentai-USA, a nonprofit organization that searches Pacific islands for the remains of Japanese war dead, has been consulting archives in the United States recently. The Japanese are looking for clues, information, evidence, anything that might point them toward the graves of American soldiers who died on Saipan during the war, were buried there, and then through the confusion and shuffle that followed the fighting were forgotten. These are a handful of the thousands of U.S. soldiers, sailors, and Marines listed as missing in action.

Condo Development Where Hundreds Were Wounded or Killed

Usan Kurata, the 58-year-old founder of Kuenti-USA and a journalist by trade, told the Associated Press recently, “This is urgent.” Kurata and others from the organization were searching through records at the New York State Military Museum when the interview was conducted. Kurata told the wire service that the members of Kuenti-USA believe returning the remains of the missing Americans of Saipan to their families is the right thing to do. Kuenti, a Japanese organization, has previously used maps and photographs that were taken in 1944 and appeared in Life magazine to locate a mass grave holding 800 Japanese dead.

Why the urgency now? A Russian real estate developer has announced plans to construct a condominium development on Saipan in close proximity to the beach where a number of Americans lost their lives on July 7, 1944, defending against the largest Japanese banzai attack of World War II. On that night, more than 3,000 Japanese troops attacked positions held by the 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Division, a New York National Guard unit, and more than 900 Americans were killed or wounded.

Continued Efforts by JPAC and the Defense POW-MIA Office

Since 2011, Kuenti personnel have found the remains of two American dead near the proposed construction site, and they have reason to believe that as many as 16 others are buried in the area. According to the Pentagon, 20 American casualties remain missing on Saipan, and a spokesperson for the U.S. Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) has promised that a recovery team will be sent to Saipan if a probable burial site is threatened by commercial development. There are also strict building guidelines that developers are required to follow.

So many years after the life and death struggle for Saipan and other Pacific islands, the effort to locate the missing, both American and Japanese, continues. Hopefully, reforms and renewed accountability in JPAC and the Defense POW-MIA Office will bring additional energy to the ongoing search.

All Doubt Removed – Reorganization is a Farce

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) <alisa.m.stack.civ@mail.mil>
Date: Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 3:27 PM
Subject: New communication roles
To: “Stack, Alisa M SES OSD OUSD POLICY (US)” <alisa.m.stack.civ@mail.mil>

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.

Alisa Stack
Director, Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT)
703-697-6021

***********************************
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 – alisa.m.stack.civ@mail.mil

Her deputy is Ross Brown and his email address is – ross.a.brown6.civ@mail.mil  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 –
christine.e.wormuth.civ@mail.mil

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.

ProPublicia Reporter Recognized for Series on MIA Problems

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.

Failing the Fallen

Bud’s Story, From the Records

How You Can Help Find an MIA

Pentagon Overhauls Effort to Identify its Missing

Pentagon Finally Decides to Dig Up Remains of Long Lost Soldier

Pentagon Report Finds Litany of Problems with Effort to Recover MIAs

Head of Flawed Effort to ID Missing Soldiers Loses Job

 

Dignity and Respect for the Fallen

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.

Dr. Tom Holland and CIL staff and CIL examination room

Dr. Tom Holland and CIL staff in front of their display windows.

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.

 

Dover AFB Mortuary examination room

Dover AFB Mortuary examination room

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.

Cutting Sample From Bone (stock photo)

Cutting Sample From Bone (stock photo)

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.

JPAC Packs It In

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
Cristobal Romo Korea JPAC JPAC 2004
James Holms Korea Korea Korea 1991-1994
William Carneal Japan (WWII) Japanese Japanese 2013
John Keller Korea Data not released Data not released Data not released
Donald Durfee Korea Korea Korea 1954
Paul Gordon Korea Korea Korea 1953
Douglas Ferguson Laos(Vietnam) JPAC JPAC 1994-1997
William Day Korea Korea Korea 1991-1994
William Blasdel Korea Data not released Data not released Data not released
Aruther Richardson Korea Data not released Data not released Data not released
Richard Isbell Korea Korea Korea 1994
William Bonner Korea Korea Korea 1953
Harold Reed Korea Korea Korea 1954
Richard Archambeault Korea Korea Korea 1991-1994
Lucio Aguilar Korea Korea Korea 1991-1994
Lawrence Gordon France (WWII) Private Researchers Private Researchers 2013
Robert Howard Germany(WWII) Germans Germans/JPAC 2012
David Kittredge Germany(WWII) Germans Germans/JPAC 2012
Cecil Harris France (WWII) France France/JPAC 2013
Alva Groves Korea Korea Korea 1991-1994
Randolph Allen Tarawa History Flight History Flight 2013
Gerald Atkinson Germany(WWII) Germans Germans 1946-1947
Lawrence Jock Korea Korea Korea 1991-1994
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