Not forgotten bringing fallen heroes from world war ii home – database theory

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — At Arlington National Cemetery, the sound of a Marine band playing the Marine Hymn grows louder as it nears a gravesite. The music is backed with the percussion of horse hooves against the asphalt road as the animals pull a carriage holding a flag-draped casket.

During the service, McNichol’s nephew read a report of his uncle’s extraordinary heroism during the battle. Before his death, McNichol made repeated trips into enemy occupied positions, killing the occupants and destroying arms and ammunition. The recommendation for recognition said that McNichol took voluntary part in the activities, knowing that once he entered enemy positions he would be without immediate support from his comrades.

He’s one of thousands from World War II who never came home, and for years they were classified as prisoners of war or missing in action whose remains were not recoverable.

But in recent years, hundreds have gotten the funerals they deserve.

The military has long had a program in place — Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency — which focused on finding the remains of service members lost in conflicts from Vietnam to the first Persian Gulf War, but it wasn’t until 2010 that Congress added World War II to the list.

First, historians and researchers comb through countless files to determine whether there’s enough evidence to do a field investigation. If there is, a field investigation team is sent to examine the burial site that might be the final resting place of a service member, and interview people who may have firsthand knowledge.

If that’s fruitful, archaeologists and anthropologists are sent to examine and excavate the site. If remains are found, they are brought back to the U.S. to be identified. Scientists compare DNA from the remains to DNA samples from families of the missing.

There are a lot of obstacles: Remains can be degraded by acidic soil or high water tables, or if they were dusted with formaldehyde before burial. The DPAA only has DNA samples from 6 percent of the families of loved ones unaccounted for from World War II.

He thinks keeping this mission within the Department of Defense will make the identification process take longer and cost more. He believes a civilian organization would have better expertise and more technology for the mission of bringing fallen World War II service members home.

Eakin, using a burial roster and other information he gathered during and after an investigation into his fallen relative, has compiled a list of those who died at the Cabanatuan POW camp who are accounted for and others who are not. The list also contains information on where the fallen may be buried.

Recently, the archaeology programs at the University of Maryland and the University of Vienna, in Austria, teamed up to help the DPAA excavate what was believed to be the crash site of a B-24 bomber. After 40 days of digging, they discovered remains which are in the process of being tested to determine whether they are those of two crew members on the B-24.

Congress mandates that DPAA identify and return the remains of 200 service members to their families each year. In 2017, the agency was only able to identify and bring home 183 fallen soldiers. McKeague called the total a high water mark for the agency, and believes assistance from the private sector will help his team reach the goal of 200 this year.

Five years ago, Rhonda Masters, of Florida, began a search for her brother-in-law’s grandfather, who also died in the camp in Cabanatuan. She realized the military was trying to find DNA from relatives of service members believed to have died in the Philippines, and decided to get involved.

Using the website, Masters said she set up profiles from some of the service members believed to have died at a POW camp in Cabanatuan, in the Philippines. One of those profiles was for Army Private Raymond Sinowitz, 25, of Brooklyn, New York.

Sinowitz died in 1942 after being taken prisoner during the battle of Corregidor, in which American and Filipino service members found themselves outnumbered by the Japanese army. Sinowitz survived capture and completed the infamous Bataan Death March, in which tens of thousands of American and Filipino troops were marched 69 miles to a prisoner of war camp while given little food or water. He died of malnutrition at the camp.

Sims’ father, Albert Sims, who also served in the war, had made it his life’s mission to find and repatriate his brother. "It was a promise he made to his mother," said Lyn Jacobs, Sinowitz’s niece and Albert Sims‘ daughter. He wouldn’t live to see the day his brother’s remains would be brought home, but his children did.

Sinowitz-Cuva said closing this chapter of her family’s history brought the family closer and reconnected her with Raymond Sims, a cousin she hasn’t seen in 50 years. She calls Masters and Eakin her "angels" for helping the family bring her uncle home.