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.

Secretary Hagel uses POW/MIA Address to Insult Families of MIA’s

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.

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

JPAC Orders Remains Reburied

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.


National Alliance of Families Newsletter

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.

Exhumation Status Report

2D9730381-jpac_labToday 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?

Holland Firing Postscript

Many readers have inquired about the “personnel changes” we told you about a few days ago. While Holland announced his dismissal before a large room full of people and confirmed it with the petition and letter writing campaign by his supporters, some of the others – Byrd, Belcher, McKeague and Webb – are denying that they have been fired and they are correct, for now. Our apologies if we weren’t clear about that, we just said it was widely expected and it still is expected.

Holland is a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES) and, unlike lesser civilian employees, can be dismissed without notice or cause. McKeague is an Air Force Major General and will not be the commander of what for now is being called the New Defense Agency which will replace JPAC and DPMO on January 1, 2015. DASD Winfield, a political appointee, will not be needed by the new agency, either.

That leaves Byrd, Belcher and Webb, all GS employees. They won’t be needed by the New Defense Agency, either. The new agency will be transitioning to a new way of doing business and making identifications which does not rely on anthropologists. The anthropologists who are left can expect to spend much more time deployed than in the lab. (Even now, the CIL anthros average less than one identification per year.)

The question is not if they will be leaving, but under what circumstances and how many others will go with them. If you read the interim OIG report which was widely circulated a few weeks ago (and was to be released several weeks ago), you may have noticed the brevity of several sections. One section that was glossed over pertained to the use of DNA in identifications. You can expect to see and hear much more about this issue between now and the first of next year.  The identification process will be moving from the 19th Century to somewhere in the late 20th Century and will require minimal input from anthropologists.

Besides a section on travel and expense irregularities, there was also a rather brief reference to misconduct including sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Approximately 50 current and former members of the MIA accounting community have submitted complaints to the DoD IG and Congress regarding various alleged leadership and management derelictions and abuse. Most of these allegations dealt with JPAC and the CIL

The assessment team contacted and interviewed all complainants referred to the OIG by Congress. While the team was at JPAC and the CIL in February and March 2014, approximately 45 people contacted the team to submit complaints about JPAC and CIL management. The team interviewed many of the complainants at off-site locations.

The assessment team forwarded the allegations to the DoD Hotline for investigation and adjudication.

Taken together, the complaints paint a picture of long-term leadership and management problems resulting in a hostile and dysfunctional work environment, and low morale throughout the accounting community.

If left uncorrected, the problems driving these complaints will be brought into the new Defense agency created by the reorganization of the accounting community as announced by the Secretary of Defense on March 31, 2014, hindering mission accomplishment.

Some of these issues will be addressed when the final report is issued. However, there are multiple additional OIG investigations in to these other areas and these investigations are ongoing. There will definitely be new faces at the new agency. We’ll have to wait to see if there will also be a new way of doing business.

And just as an interesting side note. The letters supporting Holland seem to be having an opposite and unintended effect. They all follow the same script – these are supposedly senior level people and they seem unable to compose an original letter. They all concentrate on Holland’s many awards and what a good guy he is and completely ignore his organizations’ shameful lack of success at accounting for missing American Servicemembers or the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars which have been squandered. The tone of the letters seems to be don’t fire the anthropologists because we can do the job better than the Armed Forces Medical Examiner. Unfortunately for the anthros, they seem to be their own worse enemy.


JPAC Dishonors All Who Have Worn the Uniform

In 2009, when I first started looking for information on my MIA Cousin, I had no idea that I would actually find his remains – or even that his remains could be found. Nor, did I expect to end up in the middle of the huge mess that the POW/MIA issue has become. I just thought it would be nice to include a little information about him in the family archives.

When I first obtained his Individual Deceased Personnel File, it may have taken all of ten minutes to figure out that he was one of ten possible Unknowns. Most of those ten minutes were spent scratching my head thinking that it couldn’t be this simple to find a grave that the U.S. Government had repeatedly told my Aunt and Uncle didn’t exist.

At that time I believed the cow manure slogans posted everywhere by JPAC and DPMO. Until they are home is one of them and it seems fitting – these bureaucrats have a job for life until *they* are home. It took two phone calls to learn that my Cousin’s older Brother was a dentist and he had replaced all of his silver fillings with gold inlays – a little bit of information that graves registration had failed to ask for. I had no idea when I gave this information to the Army Casualty Office that only one of the ten possible Unknowns had gold inlays. Considering the rarity of gold inlays, that’s a pretty good indicator of which remains were those of Arthur H. “Bud” Kelder. It was much better evidence than the Army had accepted on the more than 1,800 identifications (out of 2,655) from Cabanatuan.

Since then, the Department of Defense has worked, not to identify and return Bud’s remains, but to avoid doing so. When they didn’t act on their own, I filed a formal petition for a review board. Army wouldn’t act on that and sent me to DPMO. DPMO claims they never received the petition I sent or that Army had forwarded to them. That’s when I filed suit in Federal Court.

Unbeknownst to me, JPAC, bless them, did act. Three of their own investigators had worked on the case and recommended that the remains be disinterred for identification. Tom Holland ignored them and recommended that no action be taken. His boss, Major General Kelly McKeague concurred and forwarded the file to DPMO – where it sat for sixteen months without action. Holland and McKeague kind of neglected to provide their investigators reports to the Federal Court – just an oversight, I’m sure. However, those three investigators were so outraged by Holland and McKeague’s conduct that they sent me copies.

Between then and when they were backed in to a corner and knew they were going to have to produce the remains for DNA testing, I heard every excuse and was the butt of repeated slams by the nameless bureaucrats of JPAC and DPMO.

They still insist that my family is trying to “cut the line” and get ahead of other Unknowns that they plan to recover. Right, sure they are, seventy frigging years and they haven’t done diddly to recover any of the Unknowns. Show me where the line is and I’ll get in it.

My favorite was that exhumation would somehow defile the “sanctity of the grave.” That sounds good until one realizes that Bud Kelder had been buried five times. Most recently, he was moved to another grave that had been vacated. The cemetery can’t move “knowns” because the families know what grave they are supposed to be in and they don’t want to defile the sanctity of the grave. But Unknowns are fair game to use for landscaping purposes.

There were, and continue to be, all sorts of excuses, but my favorite is when JPAC insisted to the Court that they had no obligation to identify Unknowns. They admit that the families have a legal and moral right to claim the remains, but not until the remains are identified. Seems like at least one Federal Judge thinks the evidence is sufficient to identify the remains and they should be returned.

Sorry if I sound angry, because I’m not. I’m just really, really disappointed in my government and the Army that I served in. IMHO, the sorry bastards that run JPAC dishonor the memory of every American hero who gave his all for our country.


JPAC Lab Boss Tom Holland Fired, Others Expected to Follow

This week, Dr. Thomas D. Holland, Scientific Director & Deputy to the Commander for Central Identification Laboratory Operations, announced that he has been dismissed effective January 1, 2015. Sources said that Holland’s subordinates, Dr. John Byrd, Director of JPAC’s Central Identification Laboratory and his deputy Dr. William Belcher, were also being dismissed.

It is widely expected that Maj. Gen. Kelly K. McKeague, JPAC Commander and Mr. Johnie E. Webb, Deputy to the Commander for External Relations and Legislative Affairs will also be removed along with others being held responsible for failing to recover the remains of missing American Servicemembers.

While it appears that Holland was given the opportunity to go quietly, he appears intent on totally disgracing himself by forcing the Department of Defense to publicly reveal the details of a major investigation conducted by the DoD Inspector General.

In spite of instructions not to do so, Holland pseudo tearfully announced his firing to several hundred Korean War MIA families gathered in Washington for briefings on the progress of efforts to recover their missing family members. Holland has also encouraged his subordinates to organize a letter writing campaign directed at Secretary of Defense Hagel and members of Congress. These letters all appear to have used the same script and praise Holland’s many awards, but fail to note that he has squandered hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and has few identifications to show for it. Last year his lab identified only fifty-five MIA’s and so far this year only twenty-five. Nor do the letter writers note that the CIL has nearly two-thousand sets of remains backlogged in their warehouse.

Along with Holland, most observers also credit Johnie Webb with the abject failure of the Department of Defense to recover the remains of the fallen from America’s wars. Webb, is a retired U.S. Army officer who has been continuously associated with JPAC and the predecessor agencies since 1975.