Updated: December 11 and 22, 2014
A project to fund the creation of a documentary video of the PFC Lawrence Gordon story has been posted on Kickstarter. The Kickstarter page very nicely tells the story of Jed Henry’s search for PFC Gordon. It is a very powerful story with beautiful photography. Well worth a visit.
After only ten days, more than more than thirty percent of the goal has been pledged.
Below is a still taken from some of the footage taken for this project. An additional video has also been added.
The December issue of the National Alliance of Families is available at this link.
These newsletters are always full of good information for MIA families, but we call your attention especially to the following excerpt:
The Reorganization of the POW/MIA Accounting Effort – Unfortunately, we have nothing to report. The effort has come to a screeching halt. DOD officials assure us, nothing will be done without consultation with the family groups and this pause is an effort to assure that all voices are heard. That remains to be proven.
In the beginning of the reorganization process, we approached the effort with “cautious optimism.” Today, that cautious optimism is gone. We are at a loss to understand the DOD thought process. DOD managed to destroy the small bit of trust and good will built up early in the process with their incredibly wrong decision to halt communication with POW/MIA family groups.
Based on the lack of communication and the fact we were told no decision are being made, we would guess the January 15, 2015 date for the stand-up of the new organization will likely slip. We will have more on this in January. Be assured we are watching this process closely.
Consider calling your senators and representative and demanding that the Department of Defense do more than simply give a new name to the same failed people and failed policies who have made a mess of the sacred mission of recovering our missing.
They’ve had nearly seventy years and it is time to bring these men home.
This is a hot issue at DoD and your voices are being heard, but this is no time to let up.
On July 28, 1944, Army Private Donald Brown, 24, of Thompson was killed in action near Cambernon, France, when his tank was hit by enemy fire.
Though his dog tags were found beneath the tank amid rubble and body parts, the government’s reluctance to positively identify him remains a mystery today, more than 70 years later.
Jed Henry, 34, a photojournalist from Middleton, Wisconsin, came across the Brown situation when he was successful in helping another family have their World War II loved one’s remains identified and returned to the U.S.
Now, Henry wants to do the same thing for Brown — but has run into bureaucratic roadblocks that frustrate him.
Henry has no connection with Brown’s family and, in fact, did now know where Thompson, Iowa, was until he found it on a map.
He said after he helped the one family identify their loved one’s remains, he got a tip about Private Brown’s remains never being identified. And that was all he needed to try to help again.
“I never had a particular interest in doing this. I always grew up believing we don’t leave soldiers behind,” he said. “With our government, returning our dead is propaganda. It’s not the commitment it should be.”
Henry’s research produced a narrative written by an Army captain, dated July 8, 1947, in which he recounts his investigation of a tank belonging to the 745th Tank Battalion, Company A.
“Within and under the rear of this tank, I found human remains,” Capt. Marion K. Cole wrote. “These remains were scattered in the rear part of the compartment. A few inches from where I found several of the larger bones, I found an identification tag for Donald E. Brown, 37190660.
“It is the belief of this officer that the remains which were removed from Tank No. 2 are those of Pvt. Donald E. Brown and it is recommended they be declared as such.”
But on June 10, 1949, a notice was sent to the quartermaster general of the Memorial Division in Washington informing him the remains of Pvt. Brown, interred in Blosville, France, had been redesignated as “unidentifiable.”
It is not known why the change was made.
Brown was the son of Andrew and Anna Brown of RFD 1, Thompson. In 1945, his sister, Lillian Thiemann of Ventura, wrote to the Army asking for her brother’s personal effects. Thiemann died two years ago.
Her daughter, Joyce Sorenson of Clear Lake, said she grew up knowing her uncle died in a tank explosion in France. About four years ago she was contacted by another party wanting to have the body identified, but nothing ever came of that.
Henry contacted her this week about his efforts. “I think it would be wonderful if he could be identified and his name be put on his grave in France,” she said.
Regarding having his remains returned, she said, “I’m still processing that and what it would all entail. I’ve been in contact with some other relatives, but it is a lot to process.”
Henry said, “The problem is, the biggest issue, the heart of the matter is how government looks at things like this. The Donald Brown case is the lowest of the lowest in the process.
“The government looks at anthropology first — solving identities through skeletons, bones, teeth — identifying about how tall the person was and other physical characteristics. There is a reluctance by the government to use DNA. Once they’ve proved the identity through other means, then they ask for DNA,” said Henry.
He has written to the Army Casualty and Mortuary Affair Operations Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky, to try to get access to the remains that the government says are unidentifiable but that he believes are those of Private Brown. He wants the remains disinterred so the evaluation can be done.
“People saw the success we had in the other case. I have all the experts in place who helped with that. If I can get access to Brown’s remains, I can get him identified for free,” said Henry.
In his letter to the Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operation Center, Henry pointed out the Army identified the remains of Private Brown once in 1947 and then reclassified him for some reason two years later. He also pointed out Private Brown’s dog tags were found near the remains.
“Considering the advancement in DNA technology, if the government is willing to use the most advanced technology, in conjunction with the overwhelming circumstantial evidence available, I think an identification could be possible in this case,” he wrote.
Henry said there are about 10,000 “unknown soldiers” buried in U.S. cemeteries throughout the world. From 1978 through 2013, only 14 had been identified.
“The government has a system in place that says no, no, no, no, no,” said Henry. “They operate from a standpoint of all the possible soldiers it could be, and then do a process of narrowing it down.”
He received a response this week that the Army Casualty Office will process his request for disinterment and would be in touch with him when a decision is made.
Updated October 10 and December 5, 2014
We’re still getting emails asking about the JPAC/DPMO reorganization so we’re reposting this in case someone missed it. The only thing that has changed in the last two months is that this new agency looks like even more of a bad joke. Their only concern for MIA families is keeping them off their backs and away from their congressmen. Giving the failed agency a new name and keeping the people who failed in the past is an insult to all MIA families.
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) <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 3:27 PM
Subject: New communication roles
To: “Stack, Alisa M SES OSD OUSD POLICY (US)” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 – email@example.com
Her deputy is Ross Brown and his email address is – firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Here are a few of the news articles on DNA identification we’ve received recently. Seems like everyone but JPAC is successfully using DNA to identify skeletal remains.
England’s King Richard III Identified with DNA
Foxnews.com LONDON – Scientists say there is “overwhelming evidence” that a skeleton found under a parking lot is that of England’s King Richard III, but their DNA testing also has raised questions about the nobility of some of his royal successors.
The bones of the 15th-century king were dug up in the city of Leicester in 2012, and experts have published initial data suggesting they belong to Richard, including an analysis of his curved spine and the injuries that killed him.
Richard was the last English monarch to die on a battlefield, in 1485.
Application of low copy number STR typing to the identification of aged, degraded skeletal remains.
(Note – this paper was co-authored by JPAC’s Tom Holland and Alexendar Christensen)
Low copy number (LCN) STR typing was successfully applied to four interesting cases during developmental validation of the approach for degraded skeletal remains. Specific questions were addressed in each case, with the acquisition of STR data largely serving as additional confirmatory or investigatory information in any specific situation, and not necessarily providing the definitive evidence to establish identity. The cases involve missing U.S. service members from World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. The variety of these cases, in terms of the questions addressed, the age of the remains, and the type of reference material available for comparison, demonstrates the broad utility of LCN STR typing in the identification of degraded skeletal remains from missing persons.
Mystery Solved: The Identification of the Two Missing Romanov Children Using DNA Analysis
Public Library of Science, March 2009
One of the greatest mysteries for most of the twentieth century was the fate of the Romanov family, the last Russian monarchy. Following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, he and his wife, Alexandra, and their five children were eventually exiled to the city of Yekaterinburg. The family, along with four loyal members of their staff, was held captive by members of the Ural Soviet. According to historical reports, in the early morning hours of July 17, 1918 the entire family along with four loyal members of their staff was executed by a firing squad. After a failed attempt to dispose of the remains in an abandoned mine shaft, the bodies were transported to an open field only a few kilometers from the mine shaft. Nine members of the group were buried in one mass grave while two of the children were buried in a separate grave. With the official discovery of the larger mass grave in 1991, and subsequent DNA testing to confirm the identities of the Tsar, the Tsarina, and three of their daughters – doubt persisted that these remains were in fact those of the Romanov family. In the summer of 2007, a group of amateur archeologists discovered a collection of remains from the second grave approximately 70 meters from the larger grave. We report forensic DNA testing on the remains discovered in 2007 using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), autosomal STR, and Y- STR testing. Combined with additional DNA testing of material from the 1991 grave, we have virtually irrefutable evidence that the two individuals recovered from the 2007 grave are the two missing children of the Romanov family: the Tsarevich Alexei and one of his sisters.
Mass graves from the first world war are giving up precious secrets – about both sides.
New Scientist, November 2014
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|
There is a lot more to the story of the exhumation of the Unknowns originally buried in Cabanatuan Grave 717.
In general, the men who were buried at Cabanatuan and their remains not identified were those for whom no dental records were available. Most often these were the men who had been in the Army for the shortest time and who had not been to a military dentist as in most cases the Army didn’t bother to request civilian dental records.
However, the case of Arthur H. “Bud” Kelder had a unique twist to it – his older Brother, Herman Kelder was a dentist. In fact, the address of his dental office was listed as the next-of-kin’s address. But instead of asking the family to provide dental records, the Army repeatedly told Private Kelder’s family that there were no remains to return to them for burial.
So when Kelder’s Cousin, John Eakin, received Kelder’s Individual Deceased Personnel File in 2009, it was obvious what had happened and where his remains were. It took Eakin two phone calls to learn that in 1936, right after graduating from dental school, Herman had replaced his younger Brother’s silver fillings with gold inlays. A few weeks later, the “X-files” on the men buried in Grave 717 were obtained and only one of the remains had gold inlays – Manila #2 X816.
So, while there was now considerably more evidence of the identity of X816 than had been required to identify any of the other men who died at Cabanatuan, the Department of Defense refused to act to return the remains to the Kelder family. Eakin first petitioned the Army for a review board, which was rejected without action. Then the Defense POW/MIA Office “lost” the next petition so Eakin filed suit in Federal Court.
Actually, this was Eakin’s second lawsuit, the first was needed just to obtain the files on unidentified WWII service members. When these records were obtained, it was obvious that there were thousands of other American GI’s who could have been, but were not identified and returned to their families.
So the second lawsuit hoped to not just recover the remains of Bud Kelder, but also to open the door for other MIA families to recover the remains of their loved ones.
From the beginning, the government lawyers sought to delay and throw up procedural roadblocks to the lawsuit. But thanks to the assistance of a number of people who detested JPAC’s deceit and withholding of evidence and secretly provided the missing documents, it became obvious that the government was not going to play by the rules. The Court must have sensed what was going on and signaled that they would look favorably on a request for DNA testing of the remains.
Faced with an almost certain court order to produce the remains, the government suddenly decided to exhume the remains. They hoped to accomplish two things by doing this before being ordered by the Court. First, it allowed them to control the exhumations and the timing and content of any identification announcement. Even though JPAC has actively fought against identification of the men buried in Grave 717 and issued a number of press releases and court filings, they have yet to acknowledge those little details.
But most of all, by voluntarily exhuming the Grave 717 Unknowns, the government hopes to avoid addressing Eakin’s request that the court order DoD to give other families an opportunity to recover the remains of their loved ones. The situation is now such that upon completion of DNA testing of X816, Eakin’s lawsuit will become moot and because he is not represented by an attorney he is precluded from arguing on behalf of other families. Other MIA families – even those who know exactly where the remains of their loved ones rest – will have to, just like Eakin, go through a protracted battle to obtain what is legally and morally theirs.
The government has had seventy years to return these men to their families for burial and to give the families final closure. It hasn’t happened, and it won’t happen unless the families make it happen.
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?
Faced with a certain Federal Court order to produce the remains of Private Arthur H. “Bud” Kelder, the Department of Defense preemptively decided to exhume all ten of the Unknowns originally buried in Grave 717 of the Cabanatuan POW Camp in the Philippines.
Having exhausted all of their procedural challenges to the lawsuit brought by Kelder’s Cousin, John Eakin, the U.S. Government decided to exhume and examine the remains themselves rather than lose control of the process.
After the war, Grave 717 was opened and four of the fourteen sets of remains were identified and returned to the States for burial by their families. While the prisoners had kept meticulous records of burials and they knew who was buried in each grave, Army Graves Registration personnel were unable to individually identify their remains and they were buried in individual graves in what is now the Manila American Cemetery operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
The men in Grave 717 who were returned to their families for burial included:
- PFC Daniel C. Bain
- Sergeant Lawrence K. Hanscom
- PFC Juan E. Gutierrez
- PFC Harvey A. Nichols
The others, who were buried as Unknowns, included:
- Civilian George York Sr.
- Corporal John W. Ruark
- Corporal George G. Simmons
- Corporal Frederick G. Collins
- PFC Lloyd J. Lobdell
- Pvt Charles M. Waid
- Pvt Arthur H. Kelder
- Pvt John Kovach
- Pvt Harold B. Hirschi
- Pvt Evans E. Overby
All of these men perished on 19 and 20 November 1942 due to the brutal conditions under which they were imprisoned by the Imperial Japanese Army. They were then all interred in communal grave number 717.
The exhumation process was planned to begin on August 12, 2014 and take two to three weeks. After which, all ten remains are to be flown to Hawaii for examination at the Central Identification Laboratory operated by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC). DNA testing will be performed by the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) at Dover AFB, Delaware.