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tv   Locating and Returning Remains of U.S. Service Members  CSPAN  January 14, 2017 10:25pm-11:50pm EST

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and at home. until next time, reporting, i'm xavier williams. announcer: on the road with the c-span bus. announcer: c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. on "american history tv," efforts to locate and return the remains of deceased american servicemembers and the aftermath of world war ii. titled minute event "1946, year zero, triumph and tragedy. " >> we spent today talking about the living.
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how they escaped justice, how they came to build modern day america. how they dealt with returning to civilian life after years of war. unfortunately, there is one other side of the post world -- of the postwar world. those who never made it home, and those who are waiting for them. our final session will cover three different stories about the efforts to bring home all of our nations fallen, beginning after the war and still ongoing 70 years later. usare fortunate to have with , who has written five superb books on world war six superb books on world .ar ii be a man whose mission
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is to recover and identify the remains of americans who died overseas. our last speaker of the day, dr. sharon taylor, who grew up another knowing her father, who was killed in europe when she was only an infant. before david comes up, we will see a last oral history showcase of the day. ♪ >> i went back in 1984, for my first visit there. there were some japanese and
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they came knocking at my door, and they asked, we heard you were here during a war. i said yes. whereaid, you might know there's two or three bodies buried or something. there's a place where there's 1200. he said, we've been down there, and there are two big stakes in the ground. but we couldn't find just where they are all buried. i said, if you get some natives together tomorrow morning, i'll bring you down and show you about where they are. i had a good idea where we had buried these bodies. they had dug big trenches out with a bulldozer blade. i went over and looked and could see soil on the ground, and i iid i think if you did --
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said, i think if you dig here, you will find some japanese bodies, because it isn't that deep. after the second or third aovel, they came up with some but the guess japanese lower echelon rank were wearing. he brought that out, and the leather was soft. so he dug a little more and came up with a skull of a japanese. it andy hand and banged a lot of the sand came out. likeould see brain matter cobweb at the top. that was pretty well preserved. officer, this japanese
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i thought it was because of the salt and the sand. he said, that's exactly what we figure. will have a group of japanese people come in within 10 days. can you stick around? i said, yes. about 10 days later, a c 47 landed and they had a shinto priest on there with white robes and so forth. , drove out in a bus, and the shinto priest stood up front and kept staring at me. just a tremendous amount of hatred in his eyes. it didn't bother me. we got out there and these ladies got on the ground and and gaveing and crying you a different feeling than what you had during the war when
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all these people were killed. >> they were going to bomb some type of manufacturing plant in durban and bomb berlin, germany. , coldaid it was a clear sunday morning when they took off. there were actually three
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squadrons and the bomb group that day. there were 12 planes in each squadron. i was told that the first squadron was the high squadron, the second was the little squadron, and the third was the low squadron. my dad's plane was in the third squadron. i was told that shortly after they took off, that two of the planes. engine trouble and had to turn back, leaving 10 planes. once they made their turn toward germany, the lead plane and the squadron developed some type of mechanical problem, and they had to fall back and further behind the other two. so this left 10 planes flying low, slow, and without any fighter protection. but they continued on. the other two had gone out of sight, and they were just flying
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along alone. this was supposed to have been a milk run because the german air force was supposed to be finished. done,ad been supposedly but apparently they weren't, because they were suddenly attacked by german fighter planes. hadtly after my dad's plane taken the lead, it was hit in the tail by fire, and the tail gunner was apparently killed instantly. they were hit again in the middle section of the plane, and it cut on fire, and my dad gave the order to bail out. he was able to hold the plane in the air while five of the crew members bailed out, and they were captured and spent the balance of the war in a german prison camp. understand that my dad was
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trapped in the cockpit and was an able to get out, and died in the crash. i was 16 months old at the time he was killed, and he was only 22 years old. it was different. , going toerent school, you know. --,dn't have a daddy in a you know? it was a different feeling. very fortunate in that i had grandparents who were very loving, very kind, and really raised me. -- butght me the things i still missed having a dad and growing up with a dad. school and other children talk about their mom and dad, i could talk about my mom and my grandparents, but i
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didn't have a dad. it means so much to the entire family. he was a true american hero. he gave his life for his country. it's been an inspiration, that in itself, to his entire family. [indiscernible] speak sittingo down.
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about a month ago, i was playing andis and tore a hamstring collapsed on my tennis racket and broke a rib. so it's still somewhat painful to stand, although walking isn't too bad. my name is david coley, and i have written six books on world war ii, the latest being "seeing compendiumhich is a of photographs from the war with about what became of the individuals and those photographs. quite a few were wounded, some were killed, and many made it back. it is the story of this young lieutenantame was -- jesse red
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that he wasshowed probably the second man to be killed. in earlyhe ministry 1942 to join the air corps. he became a bombardier assigned to a unit in benghazi. , the majorhe raid raid. the codename was operation tidal wave. he is playing with among the first three over the target, and the objective was to take out the german oil production. his plane was third over the target. it was hit, immediately burst into flames.
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the pilot tried to let the men and his chute didn't open, he ground, and was killed. the word came back to his father , who was a baptist minister in columbus, mississippi, that his son was first missing action, and later, killed in action. franks refused to except that the nation because they did not have a body and could not tell them what became of his son. he then embarked on a six-year odyssey to find his son or to find out what happened to him. columbusis ministry in and moved to geneva to work for the world council of churches in hopes of being able to get into romania and look for his son. he could never get in because the iron curtain had come down by that time. eventually, it was learned that
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he had the ground, scavengers came along and took all hesitant --ation papers, while it identification papers and wallet. down, thewere shot force was decimated. after the war, the graves registration unit came into romania, picked up the bodies of the unknown, and transferred inm to arden cemetery belgium, where they were buried as unknowns. through the insistence of his father, the military finally opened up some of the graves, exhumed his body, and they found through dental records that it was red franks. , i tell thestory story of the repatriation of
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some 233,000 american dead following world war ii. it was an operation that lasted longer than the war itself. it has been called the most melancholy immigration in the history of man. the return of the dead kind of has origins in the civil war and even before that, if you take the mexican war. the dead were buried where they day, most ofthis them are unknown as to where they are buried. the civil war, union soldiers were buried pretty much where they fell, and on the battlefield in very shallow graves. subject tos were natural forces, weather, and animals. many of the remains were scattered.
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virginia, battles in a unit was digging in in the same area where they had thought the year before, and it was also the site of graves of their comrades who were coming out of their graves, and they can identify some of the dead. one of them had a gold tooth and one they could tell by his belt buckle. play inhy had a part to the civil war. it was the first time that civilians would see bodies lying around on battlefields, in some cases, the battle of antietam they didn't bury the dead for four or five days. they realized something had to be done. in july, 1862, president lincoln authorized the creation of 74 national cemeteries around the country. one of those national cemeteries was arlington, the home of robert e lee. this is an example of after the
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, the union sent soldiers out on all the battlefields to try to recover as many remains as possible. as you can see, it would be a difficult task because they were all intermixed and intermingled. soldiers scour the countryside of the battlefields and tried to pick up as many as they could. the bodies of about 300,000 union soldiers were recovered, but most of them or many of them are incapable of being identified. a were buried either a national cemeteries or their families took them. this policy of returning the to go into started action during the spanish-american war, when bodies of the dead were finally identified and the grave sites
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were properly identified. at the end of the war, 1222 from cuba, returned puerto rico, and the philippines. this policy continued in the first world war, when some 46,000 of the 70,000 dead were returned by ship. the policy of returning dead continued for world war ii up to the korean war and even december -- and even today. prior to december, 1950, the dead were placed in common graves.- in common the dead were950, returned immediately upon their death. their job was to go in and pick
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up the dead. dead american of soldiers awaiting to be picked up and identified and buried. retrieval was, in many cases, very unpleasant. as you can see, you had to deal with dead bodies, which was quite unpleasant. the bodies were stacked like wood in the backs of trucks and transported to temporary cemeteries, particularly in europe or asia. from there, they were laid out as you can see their -- as you can see there, and grave registration units would seek to identify them. their personal effects were gone with the idea of making
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sure they could identify everyone there. this is a soldier laying out the personal effects of a soldier. the personal effects were returned to the families at home. let me backtrack if i can. shot -- all the bodies were placed in mattress covers. buried as you see here. time, april 1945, a temporary cemetery which is now a permanent american cemetery. his body was returned after the war. he is now buried in queens, new york with his family.
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this is a shot of a temporary cemetery, i'm not sure quite where. all the cemeteries were temporary during the war. they were all over europe and asia. some of them became permanent cemeteries. the cemetery at normandy was a temporary cemetery, ari chapelle was temporary. they are now permanent american cemeteries. they are beautiful, if you have never been. after the war, the grave registration units and soldiers were detailed to search for bodies all over europe. it was a global effort. this is a shot of a soldier in a german cemetery where an american soldier might have been buried. they scoured the battlefields and looked for graves like this. this is a shot of an american germans.ied by the
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they would literally sweep battlefield areas, looking for anomalies, for gravesites, looking into ravines were graves might have been located. during one battle, the americans had to retreat from one part of the forest and left behind scores of dead that were not picked up for months until the americans advanced through the forest of -- through the forest in the winter of 1945. the grave registration units would go into villages in france , low countries, even in germany. there would go to villages and ask whether the villagers had buried in an american soldiers. the frequently took care of american dead and buried them in churchyard cemeteries. one of the problems they ran into is that the villagers wanted those gravesites and the bodies to remain in the graves
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because they were memorials and monuments to their liberation. the americans finally one out -- but thewon out, villagers wanted them as a token of remembrance for the war. none of the dead were returned until after the war, and that was for basic logistical reasons. this was a global war. you couldn't afford to have thousands of personnel stationed all over the world dealing with the dead. they left it to the end, and by the end of the war, they were something like 80,000 plus americans missing in action. to this day, 78,000 are still missing, but you can imagine the expanse of that operation did not only sweep the battlefields of europe, but to probe the ,attlefields of africa and asia
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the himalayas. grave registration units when into the mountains of china to search for remains of flyers. , the island where the battle of taro was fought. dead marines were buried in a common graves, and after the war, they couldn't find it. find where the remains were buried, so they brought marines in to ask where the remains were buried, and finally, they were able to locate them. after the war, families were given a choice. do you want your son, husband, brother brought back or buried in an american cemetery overseas? 233,000 elected to have the bodies returned. they were placed in coffins and exhumed and place into him bark
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asian -- and placed into embarkation points. chips -- modified deadied ships to carry the , and this is coming into san francisco. probably, many of the bodies went under the golden gate on their way out and are now being brought back. when they were returned, they were offloaded as you can see here. from there, they were transferred to railroad cars that during the war had been used as hospital cars. the trains would span out to different parts of the country and each body was delivered to a hometown, village, or city.
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accompanying each coffin was a anrd, but he also provided armed guard aspect to this. the concern was, and it was real, that the families wanted to know whether the remains were actually a member of the family, and there was a fear that the coffins would be opened and there wouldn't be much to find. i spoke to a woman a number of years ago who snuck into the funeral home in her hometown and, with her brother, opened up the coffin of her husband. it turned out to be her husband, and in many cases, it would be almost impossible to identify bodies. another major concern was that the bodies were not the , andidual in the coffin there was reason for that. i spoke to a woman a number of years ago. she received personal effects
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that were not of her husband. when he came back in 1947 to be reburied, she still do not in the that was the man coffin. this was a common problem. one problem i ran into in normandy, they were to graves, one that was a soldier without a foot, one with just a foot in it. , supposedly, to be of a soldier who went home, was repatriated, and was civilian life. they were united the foot with the body. but this was a problem. i spoke to a sailor who was involved in offloading the coffins. the netting broke and the coffins filled out on the wharf -- spilled out on the wharf. they were picked up and put back in the coffins, but they had no
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idea whether it was the right bodies in the right coffins. once they were buried, they were buried with an honor guard, and there is either a military personnel from a nearby base or provided by veterans from previous wars. shot of an american cemetery. this is arlington cemetery, at the time just beginning to be a permanent american cemetery. at the graverank's of his son after he had been edified. this is a shot of the normandy cemetery. they are extraordinarily well cap and beautiful. well kept and beautiful. these returns are quite extraordinary.
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many of the individuals of the families did not leave that the dead were dead. as i mentioned, the woman whose husband personal effects were not his, she only had the feeling whenever there was a knock at the door, sometimes she felt that her husband had come back. the same thing was true of a mother whose son was killed in an air crash off the coast of turkey. she always believed he was going to come back someday. in a number of cases, there was a vacant grave where families left a gravesite open. this particular flyer was finally discovered and his remains were returned to the grave that his parents had left for him years before. , twoer thing about this generations removed, families are still -- grandchildren and
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great-grandchildren are still involved in the search and return of the dead. it is incredible to hear stories of a soldier being returned 70 years later and the whole town turns out. the great-grandchildren are the ones who are officiating, finally getting granddad back. well, the goes on -- official search ended long ago, but oftentimes you will hear of remains of american soldiers from world war ii being found. recently, two soldiers were found. a fighter pilot was found in one of the seas off of holland. when they are found, they are the army hawaii central identification lab, where dna test matches it with the family. thank you. [applause]
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>> thank full to my lifelong aversion to tennis, i will stand . i would like to say thank you all for being here. i am really excited and feel privileged to be a part of this. i hope you have been enjoying it as much as i have. i'm going to start out and talk about how the official search actually does continue in the efforts of the u.s. government and military expand to bring home the fallen. i will start out with a brief vignette on richard stanley. he was a young man, just a boy, 19 years of age when the world came crashing in on him. he and his compatriots in a frigid december in a desolate
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land, thought they were at the end of a war. they were in the final offensive , and the conclusion of hostilities was a mere matter of months. enemy forces surprised them through a major offensive, unhinged the sector, and let these men fighting for their lives. richard courageously led and improvised infantry squad and short, sharp, albeit attack force. he held off the enemy long tough to allow his mates retreat. he was struck grenade fragments and suffered a mortal wound and expired thereafter.
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this is a different year and a different war. this is korea. you can see richard before he shipped out. note, he was awarded the navy cross for the actions i described. i put toledo in there because i am from toledo. that i am showing to you, if you look in the center of the image in the upper left-hand corner of the map, you can see the area i am talking about. events that i just sit -- that i just described took place on a night in december, 1950. that was when marines from the area began fighting retreats to regroup with the u.s. forces south of the reservoir before moving out of north korea entirely. this was a running four-day battle just to get out of their location. because of the intensity of the
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fight, the marines had to make some very difficult choices. one of those decisions was they had to decide to leave behind the remains of their fallen comrades. they left them in two different locations. one specific location, a temporary cemetery, and the other was a generalized location, strewn across the battlefield, which is what happened with richard. you might wonder why i am talking about the korean war at a world war ii conference. his's a steal too much of thunder for tomorrow, there are many continuities between these two conflicts. one of those is through the treatment of the dead, at least in this initial stage for the korean war. i'm going to close off the discussion on richard by talking about his 2012 internment. we did recover and bring home richard to his family.
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it is an interesting story of how we got there and it illuminates some of the effort that government goes through to bring these guys home. often, as you just heard from david, there is a great deal of effort to scour the battlefields after conclusion of hostilities. due to the limits of the historical records and science and technology, some of these were unidentifiable. the korean war armistice of 53, one of the provision held at the two opposing sides would exchange remains of the dead. in 1954 u.n. forces for me -- u.n. forces received the remains of individuals. approximately 2900 were deemed to be american and of the fact group 848 were deemed unidentifiable and were buried in honolulu hawaii.
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of those, one of the cases, literally we had the first x-files. we developed an argument, a rationale. subjecting them to identification analysis and proving they were -- sending them home to their family. aside, therief story wherewithal to go out to the macro level and talk a little bit about what it is the government does to resolve these cases. i'm talking specifically about unresolved casualties. there are several categories of individuals they are missing in action, killed in action, body not recovered or somebody who has known a prisoner of war who did not return alive or he did -- or we did not recover
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remains. i have to put that caveat because we are several guys each and every week. the number is going down. still casts a very long shadow that has lingered well after the hostilities. the vast majority are world war ii individuals. point? we get to that david did a good job of covering the past histories and the iterations throughout our nation's military history, casualty counting efforts. i'm going to skip over that. the governmenty and military services take seriously our charge to account for these individuals. to locate, recover, identify, and sent home there remains, or to prove that the individual has deceased and we
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cannot recover their remains. individuals are deep water losses and some are not going to be recovering their remains. americans take wars as experiences for collective ideals. are challenged a are confronted by individuals consumed by war. i mean that metaphorically and individuals through brief or trauma can't cope with war or what war has done to them, as well as literally. we never recovered anything for people to physically mourn over. there were clear predecessors. the first portion of the korean
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war, noted there were many similarities. generally we would be on the advance. usually they would establish a temporary cemetery, move forward, establish another cemetery and so on. sweep the battlefield, consolidated temporary cemeteries and then do a more thorough search. and then you heard the process of consolidating a permit cemetery. in a place of their designation. things change in the korean war, -- onceto the chosen the u.n. forces lost control of that battlefield they never regained it. they could never go through and do the scouring, they couldn't
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disinterred the temporary cemetery. by the start of january 1951 it was a policy put in place -- the idea is hopefully us in the as soon a- hopefully somebody expires you identify them and send them home. underlying point about the temporary cemeteries and to quicklyefforts and effectively gather up was just that. this was intended to be a short-term effort and i was something that holds true from world war ii through korea. mostials always intended a -- intended at most a year-long effort. there was a presumptive finding of depth that was left -- of death that was left outstanding.
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officials thought this was the end of the effort, a bookend, if you will. i would say the intent was to push families to sort of move on with life. i will shamelessly plug one of -- books. in their he has a passage that talks about the fact that this loss, butective something that required a solitary approach. and also something dr. miller had said, everything works out differently. this unilateral and definitive closure did not work out. it left too many questions, too much uncertainties, and people wanted to know what happened to their loved ones. i had read countless letters of
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people expressing their frustration, their anger, their rage. can you tell us anything more to my familyppened member? saying no, i'm sorry, there is nothing we can do. via gnome changes all of that. that is why displayed as graphic of walking to some iterations. essentially the counting process -- the accounting process never ended. there is a transition from the units, those dealing with the dead, to what david has mentioned, the central identification laboratory. that laboratory from the 70's and 80's and 90's primarily focus on dealing with the vietnam casualties.
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they began focusing on the korean war. that was in large part due to the state department efforts to rekindle associations between the united states and north korea and use this mission as the weigh-in. from the mid-90's to 2005 every single year we sent a team out to north korea to recover remains of the fallen. we are not there right now. i don't think we will be back there anytime soon. most recently last year that unit melded with a couple of others creating this new agency. that put the increasing size insignias to denote the increase of importance and -- so what do we do? really a two-part mission. work tone hand we
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inform the family first and then story ofc and tell the the fallen, of the missing. on the other hand we also go out and find and recover and and returned the remains of the fallen. we move on to acquisition. through processing them in our laboratories and then hopefully identify them and send them home informing the families and the public. i will make it couple of points about each of those sets. for historical research, shown here in one of the main state facilities, although we go to facility starting -- facilities across the united states. we use them cutting edge
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analytical programs. the intent of the research is to either find a location for our fields to go investigate, or to pick one of these unknowns that we should take up for identification analysis. this is digging up the remains that were designated as unknown. i showed a collage of the korean war. you can see me standing awkwardly at attention. we focused on the korean war unknowns for several reasons. main reason is the majority of the unknowns were buried in .onolulu just down the road
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also with around the mid-800 or so of unknowns buried at the the size was morphed by the mid-8000 or so. somehow we picked the korean war to do proof of concept. only recently have we turned more conservatively to the second world war. to dot we are ramping up 200 of these this in turn men's. thing. serious if you are reading on the news recently, we disinterred the remains. we are identifying those guys. we also working on remains recovered. not often than not there is going to be a set of remains in a cemetery associated with an individual or with the battle.
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you have to go out with the field and find them. my colleague is doing an impersonation of indiana jones. we do this worldwide. offact i have a great honor being on one of these this past summer. we located the crash sites for p 47 that was down by ground fire. through some pretty tough work we were able to find the site, did down through two meters of thick heavy clay and locate the wreckage and the remains of the pilot. i didn't show a slide of our laboratory because we have some pretty strict prohibitions against the remains of the fallen out of dignity and
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respect of the fallen. leaders -- they are leaders in their fields. they process remains using a variety of cutting-edge techniques, the latest technology, and what they do is try to build on multiple arguments that lead us to remains belongs to one individual at the exclusion of every other possibility. which is really important when you are talking about air losses in large battles because very often you have multiple individuals and sometimes the remains can be mixed up. once you make a successful identification and inform the , the family chose .rlington cemetery beyond informing the families we work with the public with the
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outreach efforts. one of our mainstays is the national pow ceremony, which is in september of each year. we do a pretty big ceremony in hawaii. the meaning of all this. i would like to cover some quick numbers. for last year we identified 179 individuals. this fiscal year, which started in october, since it started, we identify 10 individuals a couple on average. we identified four individuals from louisiana this year. to korean war soldiers are from the battle of -- this reaches across the united states. in my mind this calls up something calvin coolidge said in the 1920's, a nation that forgets its defenders will be self forgotten. byhes invoking the debt owed
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society. were largely fought with conscripts, which were magnified -- which magnifies the obligations to these individuals and their families. that the phrase actually hangs in one of our labs and it keeps us constantly focus on the task at hand, which as my presentation is labeled, bringing them home, everything we possibly can. i will talk about the environment and leave it there. we do have some severe limitations, budgetary constraints. newsreader or watcher would understand. in fact we don't even have a budget. under continuing resolution, which means we have to very closely watch every penny spent. the 82,000 folks i already mentioned and the increasing urgency.
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i recently read a news article mademed by a museum that 400 -- that 400 world war ii vets are dying every single day. and that grim statistic transfers over to their families. we want to inform the whole family. but it means something a little bit more. people that knew these folks in life, because that is what we are scribing for. all is not grim. some new positive directions, the rear organization i mentioned before, increasing support, nonmonetary. but also strategic partnerships. andonly is that what i do why i'm here, but i think this shows the exciting new directions we are heading towards. we reach out to academic institutions. for instance that recovery i mentioned in northern france was conducted in partnership with
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the university. for places to help us conduct this research. we really are interested in reaching out to folks to find if they have new innovative approaches, new ideas on how we can approach individual cases or everything across the board. we are not too proud to ask for help if the caseload is too much. we are committed, we do try everything we can. i would like to pick off something they said today about giving free rein to clever civilians. we certainly subscribe to that. anyou have any questions, suggestions at all, please reach out to me because i will be more than happy to talk your ear off about the amazing humbling things we do every single day. anything we can do to helping them home, it is the least they deserve. thank you very much. [applause]
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>> good afternoon, and i want to know everything that man said is true and then some. i would not be standing here today if it weren't for them. i have ant to say heartfelt gratitude for the world war ii museum that has given me so much opportunity and gifts, get's -- so many which is the reason why i'm standing here today. on friday, april 13, 1945 22-year-old american first lieutenant shannon eugene estel flew wing man in a formation of heading towards the saxony region of germany.
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he hadn't expected to fly that afternoon but he was anxious to accumulate enough missions to head home. fighter group had completed an unremarkable afternoon mission and were flying en route to their air field. in just 12 days the peace treaty between the americans, the brits, and the russians that would divide germany would be signed 50 kilometers away. the war in europe was essentially over. walking in the farming community when they heard the ominous engine noise of enemy aircraft above. they took cover in the ditch just as they fell in the shadow of a formation of -- and they heard two simultaneous explosions. one from the direction of the
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railway station and the other from the sky. it began a spiral toward the field within seconds. the ground and exploded, a possibly accurate hit from a german antiaircraft gun waiting on the track for just such an enemy flyby. the lieutenant was the last man killed from his squadron and neither he nor his plane were recovered. it was reported that his plaintiffs -- his plane sustained a direct hit, fell .hrough the clouds with nothing more definitive than what was probable, his squadron scrambled for their own safety and return to their base, which was critical. on march 20,arlier the lieutenant and his wife became parents of a baby girl. thelieutenant had received
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birth announcement telegram and wrote that he was happy, and away from everywhere that danger was scarce. daughter, born into joy quickly descended into grief and exciting -- and anxiety. the first telegram from the war department arrived in late april 1945, declaring the lieutenant missing in action. since mix -- since missing in action wasn't killed in action my mother continued to write my father every day, even though her letters were returned stamped with casualty mail. began in franklin high school in 1939 and ended in april 12, 1945. my father was a realist, a romantic, and optimist in his letter.
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my guiding star, i know i can go into combat unafraid because i have made my peace with god. idaho -- i know that what i am writing this what i am fighting for is right and decent. i think i will be able to do a fair share and still managed to get back. but if anything should happen, i be doing thewill thing i love best next to you. when i am flying i feel even nearer. not for myi pray safety but for the strength and help to do my job, whatever it is properly. don't worry about my ability and in addition i am flying to fight us -- flying the finest fighter ever designed.
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arrived sixelegram months later. those missing in action were declared dead. my mother stopped writing and never looked at the letters again. somewhere between speculation and eduction and the common fantasy that he might be out there somewhere. that fantasy, along with the daddy absence that has informed my life. my mother remarried when i was four and rarely spoke of her missing husband, but my paternal grandmother made up for her silence. our tradition was to sit at the lunch counter and talk about my daddy, her eldest and most shiny sun. the more i heard my nana talk about the father i had never known the more i wanted to our faith.
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i didn't know how it come bush this but a promise was made. i was a.m. mother in the 1960's when anna gave me the letters my mother walked away from. randomly.i read them this written by my father a few weeks before he was killed. dearest angels, i something can't express how i feel about our daughter, so happy and glad. won't match up to the shadowy indeterminate standards. how i should love to be with you now.
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i'm afraid the big chief may check the records. angels whoy are sneak down from heaven. i dare to imagine traveling to germany to learn my father's fate. what i learned about him was preserved in letters written between 1939 and 19 35. organizer and guardian of this correspondence legacy and they became my guide and map. i found my father's loyal crew chief. he provided speculative details about my father's last flight and said he waited for hours into that night for his return. he graciously connected me to my father's remaining squadron proclaimedinstantly
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themselves my adopted dad. the pilots were wealth of information. i also found the american world war ii orphans network, where i kids.her war orphan some knew their father's fate, others, like me, didn't, but what remained constant among us was the absence of our fathers and the shared yearning of what could have been. to begin the search for my .ather, i gathered the letters my path was barely illuminated, one of my squadron dads told me about a german air researcher, a war historian and an expert on world war ii aircraft loss in germany. who knew such a person existed.
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i emailed him and asked him if he would help me find my father's crash site. i agreed to meet when the visited -- when i visited europe and he gave me fair warning that this may only be accomplished with patients. our first stop was at the american cemetery where i saw my father's name carved into the tablet of the missing. him i want today rose for my father's name. travels took us two other crash sites. to the former concentration camp nearby. and one afternoon to the warm air field. we met with -- who had been the
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officer out this german airfield 474thcupied by the fighter group. my father and his squadron lived in town in the winter mud. two years later i flew to germany again to learn members of his team had been exploring an airfield in former east germany. i stood with my german friends on the place on the tracks were the antiaircraft gun was waiting on 1945. had found an aircraft part in the shallow third in the field. the number on the part matched the part number of the p 38 j my in 1945.s flying
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emergedrts miraculously with a suspected human bone. finding possible human remains had to mortuary office be called to collect the bone. and it would consider excavating the field. next three years i pursued them relentlessly to excavate what we were certain was my father's field. i even worked on a german army awayase two train rides from the field so i could visit my father and friends on the weekend. in 2005 when they announce the excavation of world war ii crash site, my tenacity paid off, and i'll most missed the announcement. hansman team led by kessler --
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but two no one jake hecht teams -- two j pack teams -- since we brought them the crash site my wish was granted. on august 18, 2005, a team led by u.s. military team leaders and team sergeant, two recovery ncos, a life support analyst, a linguist, a photographer, and an archaeologists began plotting the excavation that would reveal my father's plane and allow us to retrieve what remained of the pilot. meanwhile team -- a documentary film crew had been thumbing our search since 2003. what they saw was a typical day in my father's field, as i wrote
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in my blog. pieces,nd parts and everything is carefully placed in a black bucket for inspection by the doctor, archaeologist, and apologist for it it is a treasure hunt with emotional attachment. late afternoon work revealed parts in one trench. because what we were finding weked like cockpit pieces prepare the trench for careful excavation. six of us recovered sifting screens. one of the guys loaded the dirt from the screens into the wheelbarrow. in every shovelful, some small or medium size pieces emerged, including several small bones. after digging 96 meters of trench, we hope we are at the exact site of one engine and one cockpit.
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the last the edge of trench and examined the pieces. among them was a toggle switch from the instant -- from the instrument panel that my father touched. is adjusting what becomes meaningful and recovering history. doctor was the excavating the site near what he hopes was the cockpit when he found a small rectangular piece. he cap that a few times. this bent piece of aluminum identified the crash site unequivocally as my father's, the numbers barely visible on the data plate considering the general destruction, matched the numbers according to the missing aircrew report and the p 38 kesslertalog hans always had with him. the excavation was considered successful. all along it was a pilot there were seeking an plane parts, only clues.
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the doctor catalog any parts that would originally be human. a tiny fragment of parachute khaki shirted button. flew to an air force base in honolulu to witness my father's return. swift passageke it was. the team carried him home with them on their transport from germany. in the end the small collection of bones was positively identified as a dna match taken from the first bone. the repatriation of lieutenant estel was a glorious ceremony. my promise to nana was fulfilled.
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the next stop the lieutenant made after repatriation was to escorted to my home in arizona, where he would be buried. we planned my father's funeral at arlington to coincide with the october 2006 reunion in d.c., that way everyone at the reading and could attend his funeral, and everyone did. an excerpt from my blog describes the surreal date we buried my father in arlington national cemetery, after a memorial service. at exactly 11:30 a.m., my father was taken from the chaplain to the brilliant day. it will not box was placed in the casket in the final walk to his grave site began. it was the last full mile in this longing journey for me.
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i was finally and proudly walking him home. if i knew then as i know now i would only be divided between the field in germany and arlington cemetery, this last walk behind his casket represent the integration of those to reality. it would never have been enough to leave them in germany. and now they know the name of the american pilot that rested there for safety two years. i knew my father should be among his courageous comrades at home. all that remained was to advise the commission to my father was that a rosette be placed next to his name. by that time i knew that the director of the cemetery very well and it took 2.5 minutes to say it was done.
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i returned with the methyl germany, to witness the rosette placed by the lieutenant's name. ? member that documentary film museum director stephen watson and i had met up the american conference where he invited us to show his film at the museum. it had been shown all over europe at that point. a brick in the walkway outside the museum commemorates my father. with great pride and gratitude i want to introduce -- on the way here from germany. please stand up.
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he is truly real. you think he is not that he has. knows everything. why did i do this? exceptes this provide the thrill of discovery? certainly it is not appearing on the same stage as sorrow and joy with the revelation my daddy died and more. it as theis i did curator of my father's legacy. because my father never could. i did it to honor the fighter pilots that witness my father in life and death and never forgot. above all, i did it so i can be my father's daughter. i thank you. [applause]
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>> the panel will have time for a few questions. over here to your right. >> this is sort of a two-part question. i think an example of how long it took, where to find your father and how long it took to get him out of the ground, get them to hawaii, get him back to , for instancetery that group on the hillside in germany,r on a site in i can see a farmer plowing his field and fighting parts of a plane. but what is the normal occurrence of how a body may be
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earth,n the dirt, in the and from that point how many years does it take for the body to be identified and returned to the family? >> good questions all around. i will fall back on the, well it depends. vietnam, it can be fear -- it can be very difficult. composition issues that inroads the bones after a long period of time. it did become increasingly difficult to find anything there. germany, we just hadn't focused on world war ii before, which seems a little ludicrous. we went in order, vietnam first and korea. it is just not in our mandate.
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there is still a lot of virgin territory for exploration. even south korea, we have been working for quite some time. construction,new remains come up quite frequently. research,rposes to do to figure out a place on the ground to do in the investigation and recovery, we are honestly had a 50-50 success rate across the board. they're a widely by conflict as you had mentioned. lab remains are in the usually the identification process proceeds very quickly. hopefully we have dna samples as a reference, we have dental records, we have a whole range to allow ourn scientists to make a quick determination.
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in our case we circumvented some of that. and the people in germany who really wanted to figure this out with us. basically they had farmed over a lot of parts and pieces and probably drove them into the ground. out it was kind of a leap of faith that we were positive it was the right place. but we never really doubted. >> i have a question in the center here. >> i have a question for dr. taylor. know, before to the war was he a college guy, was he a farmer? there are so much more i would like to know about him.
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>> he built and flew his own plane in high school. when he finally got into the army he waited a long time. he didn't get in until february of 43. he said i want to be a pilot and they said do you have a pilot's license? the fed can you ride home and get it? he said of course. a license and he just taught himself how to fly. his dream was to be an english professor. he was extremely gifted verbally and you could tell from his writing. i have 3000 pages of letters between them. he wanted that. he worked for the john deere company in iowa, just biding his time. he wanted to go. and myession was he uncle clark, who was a wealthy man, were going to start an airline.
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my life would have been different. he promised we would fly all over the country, all over the world. >> i have a question here on your left. >> hello. something that really struck me this year in particular is the overwhelming amount of stability civilian casualty. was there a way of civilian burials that was more affected by -- or was it not left to the town are the families of the perished? >> i can't really answer that question. what i would say is reading about what took place in germany, if you take trends didn't, they just gathered the bodies and burned them.
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there were so many of them. i would say the civilian casualties were handled by local people. i don't think the americans were involved. we bombed areas in france. know americans bombed the british city and when allied soldiers were taken through during normandy fighting, the french civilians were actually attacking american and british soldiers because the air corps had pretty much destroyed the city. in general, the civilians take care of their own casualties. >> i have another one all the way on the back here.
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>> when you guys discover unexplodedthere ever ordinances? am i yes, oh frequently. we have a hybrid team. military and civilian usually. we will make a determination on the likelihood of ordinance being present, and if it seems likely we will have an explosive ordinance technician, a disposal technician on the team. every day a team of german ordinance officers would come and collect whatever we found based on the determination of that ordinance officer we have on our team. away boxeshey took and boxes and boxes of exploded at unexploded or tenses -- unexploded ordinances. b-17 in normandy that was found by a french team,
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and they called in j pack, because a plane went down with 500 bombs in it. they started digging to find the remains and they ran into this ordinance and called in the experts to diffuse the bombs. >> we have one last question on your right. >> it's me again. this is more of a comment. 15 years agovilege to accompany an ordinance team in germany. wrong. me if i'm but from what i was told and what i understood, it may take 100 years of exploration and the land in germany to unearth all the unordered -- to unearth all the ordinances that remain there.
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i don't know that is true. hehe would be very smart -- is very smart. he would know. >> yes, that is most probably -- actually the eod is thinking almost half the bombs that were they have a lot of work still going on. take as long as it dictates to get all the munitions. maybe one thing about the howtion before, about itilian deaths are treated, is not quite the same in germany. civilianslot of
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buried in military cemeteries. they have been collected from in military cemeteries in germany. >> just to add one thing to that. when i was a young boy i lived overseas in france, south of france, where the wasn't a great deal of fighting. toldhool we were always never to pick anything up that might explode. i spent a summer in austria 1952, and we is to go into the woods and play with german helmets, german gas cans, the entire german army had surrendered. more key returned and play things for us. before we think the panel i want to make sure you will stay in your seats for a short little bit. we have two special
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announcements. please join me in thanking david, michael, and sharon taylor. >> you're watching american history tv, all weekend every weekend on c-span3. likein the conversation, us on facebook at c-span history. studentcam video documentary competition is underway, and students are busy at work and sharing their experience with us through twitter. it's a not too late to enter. our deadline is january 20, 2017. urgent what is the most issue for the new president and congress to address. our competition is open to


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