Underwater search begins to locate missing airmen from WWII; list shows 43 soldiers remain unaccount


DPAA Team members along with Navy personnel, rehearsed medical evacuation and treatment procedures as they prepared to get under way to conduct several underwater investigations in the Indo-Pacific region. Photo courtesy of DPAA.

(Updated)

A team from the U.S. Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA) is conducting underwater surveys in the vicinity of Guam's coastal waterways to locate missing airmen from World War II.

“DPAA currently associates numbers of missing by conflict. As you may already know, in WWII, airmen were a part of the U.S. Army Air Forces which might have qualified them as a Soldier and not what is today considered a member of the United States Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Tamara Fischer Carter, chief public information officer for DPAA.

According to DPAA's online record updated on Nov. 13, 2020, a total of 43 Navy personnel from WWII remained unaccounted for on Guam.

View list here.

A U.S. Navy vessel supports a portion of the DPAA team's diving operations for the search operation, which began Nov. 20.

Potential underwater survey areas around Guam include: Asan Point, Hagatna Bay, Pago Bay, Pati Point, and Jinapson. The general public is advised to be aware of DoD personnel operating in the areas.

“DPAA employs a deliberate decision making process to address each loss and is committed to researching, investigating, recovering and identifying the remains of U.S. service members and civilians who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Carter said.

On average, Carter said, DPAA deploys about 70 teams to more than a dozen countries worldwide, spanning from the South Pacific to the European continent.

“DPAA has a global mission with focus in the Asia Pacific and Europe” she said, “In the past,we have deployed to locations such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Republic of Korea, North Korea, Japan (Iwo Jima & Kakeroma), Pagan Island, Germany, France, Belgium, Poland, Philippines, India, Vanuatu, Fiji, and other locations as determined by sites.”

DPAA teams range in size from approximately seven to 25 based on needs of the mission, Carter said.

“ Each team member brings with them not only specific subject matter expertise and skills, they all work hard on various general tasks and operations needed to sustain a successful mission,” she said.

“Regarding how long the search will go, while many factors can influence the duration of an operation, this effort is set to run approximately 20 days. Typical missions last approximately 30 - 45 days. However, factors such as the size of the area, the complexity of the terrain, and even the discovery of new information while working in the area, may make that time period longer or shorter in duration.”

On Nov. 7, DPAA conducted its first-ever virtual Family Member Update for Little Rock, Arkansas, Nov. 7. FMUs play a vital role in keeping an open flow of communication with families regarding their missing loved ones. Continuing to keep communication with the families available despite Covid-19 has been top priority for DPAA, which prompted holding this virtual FMU, taking extra care to keep everyone safe yet informed. “After having to cancel six family meetings earlier this year, we wanted to be able to connect and communicate with you, and thus we have our very first virtual Family Member Update,” said Kelly McKeague, DPAA’s director. “It’s not an overstatement that the mission we share is a sacred one simply because it involves your missing loved one, but it is also a moral imperative because your loved one made the supreme sacrifice on behalf of a grateful nation.”

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