Advanced technology helps identify military remains

7/1/2017

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Do you have a family member who died serving in World War II, Korea, Viet Nam, or the Cold War whose remains have not been recovered or identified? The Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) is collecting and storing DNA reference samples from maternal family members of missing military personnel. These specimens will be used in ongoing identification efforts. Interested families who haven’t already provided a reference specimen should contact their appropriate Service Casualty Office.

Mitochondrial DNA analysis was recently used to identify the remains of Charles William Thompson, Fireman First Class, U.S. Navy, killed December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor. Because he originally couldn’t be identified, he was interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. In recent months, Armed Forces Medical Examiner scientists were able to identify Thompson’s remains using mitochondrial DNA analysis matching him to a niece and two nephews, Thompson’s closest living relatives. This match enabled Thompson’s family to have his remains laid to rest June 16, 2017, next to his mother’s grave in Wheatland, Missouri.

Identifying unknown Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Coast Guardsmen and Marines who die serving our country will always be a priority of the United States government. Founded by the Department of Defense in 1991, the AFDIL uses DNA analysis to identify the remains of missing military personnel as far back as World War II, as well as victims of high profile natural and man-made disasters. DNA samples are now taken from everyone who joins the U.S. Armed Forces so, hopefully, there will never be another American “unknown soldier.”

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