Collaboration to help US recover missing World War II soldiers

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A team from Cranfield will help the DPAA on its mission to recover missing WWII soldiers.

By U2B Staff 

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A team of experts from the Cranfield Forensic Institute (CFI) of Cranfield University will be assisting the US Department of Defence (DOD) in efforts to recover and identify service personnel who became casualties during World War II.

There are said to be 72,641 American personnel still unaccounted for from the war, with around 39,000 believed to be recoverable, according to a media release on the announcement. The Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA) is an agency within the US DOD tasked specifically to locate, identify, and repatriate the remains of these missing personnel, as well as others from previous wars and conflicts.

Through the collaboration, DPAA personnel will tap the expertise of a team of archaeologists and anthropologists from Cranfield to identify casualties of World War II.


To organise efforts, the DPAA recently provided scientific and field skills familiarisation training at Joint Base Pearl-Harbor Hickam Hawaii. 

The orientation, the university said, was tailored to environments in which the recovery teams will be working. It also provided information on identifying World War II aircraft and crash site recovery operations.

“We are honoured to be collaborating with the DPAA and to be part of the effort to recover conflict casualties and provide those who gave their lives with a dignified burial,” said CFI Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology Lecturer Dr David Errickson.

“The orientation provided has been delivered by some of the world’s most experienced practitioners in this field.

“Worldwide, and particularly in Europe, there are a very limited number of organisations working to recover conflict casualties and so this partnership is an extremely valuable opportunity, including for our graduates, who will also be involved to search for the missing.”


DPAA Deputy Director of Partnerships and Innovations G.R. Gillette, referred to as “Rocky” by his peers, said the collaboration would go a long way towards helping the agency in its mission.

“DPAA would like to express its appreciation to Cranfield University and all our partners who are assisting us in achieving the fullest possible accounting for past conflicts,” he said.

The team from Cranfield will comprise mostly graduates of the Forensic MSc programme offered at CFI. With experience conducting excavations across Europe as well as further afield in the South Pacific, the graduates will be able to employ forensic and archaeological methods to carry out recovery operations with the DPAA.

The DPAA was formed from the merger of several smaller agencies in 2015.