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DPAA In The News

News 2 | Jan. 29, 2024

DPAA completes first mission in the PRC since pandemic began

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) completed a site survey in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on Jan. 19, investigating two previously surveyed sites related to World War II aircraft losses.  

The mission aimed to locate a C-47 Skytrain and a P-40 Warhawk that went missing. The team, consisting of seven members, visited the provinces of Guangxi and Hunan, equipped with specialized skills to navigate challenging winter terrain efficiently.  

This undertaking marked the agency's first activity in the PRC since the onset of COVID-19. 

“The PRC delegation recognized the humanitarian nature and people-to-people opportunities of our mission and pledged continued cooperation to include sustaining both the annual archival exchanges and field missions.  The evidence recovered from the field survey at two World War II crash sites are being analyzed in our laboratory" said Kelly McKeague, DPAA director. 

Supported by the United States Embassy in Beijing, the People’s Liberation Army Archives (PLA-A), and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the team interacted with local leaders and received assistance from host nation workers.  

During their stay, the team interviewed five people, including a 90-year-old eyewitness who shared valuable insights. The team acknowledged the enthusiastic support received from the local community, emphasizing their eagerness to assist.   

“The experience was humbling. The locals, so eager to provide any sort of assistance in our search for our fallen, cared for us and those we were searching for. This says something about the human spirit,” said U.S. Army Capt. Jordan Smith, DPAA mission team leader. 

Fellow investigative team members embraced the opportunity to look for any clue on their lost comrade in arms from decades ago.  

“I’m thankful to have had this chance to interact with our host nation counterparts and work together toward finding answers for these families of the fallen,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John Miller, DPAA forensic photographer.  

A crucial outcome of the mission was the reestablishment of ties between the DPAA and its PRC counterparts.  

“A major contributing factor for the mission being such a success was that I was very fortunate to work with two incredible teams out there- our U.S. team composed of DPAA personnel and several members from the U.S. Embassy, and our PRC counterparts,” said Dr. Willa Trask, DPAA scientific recovery expert for the team. “Our team was incredibly hardworking, and their assistance, skill, and professionalism proved a crucial asset for executing two successful site surveys. Furthermore, the enthusiastic cooperation and hospitality shown to us by the PLA-A, MFA and local officials and hosts was invaluable.”  

The successful partner-building efforts with PLA-A and MFA counterparts aligned with DPAA's commitment to achieving the fullest possible accounting for missing and unaccounted-for personnel. DPAA continues its search, and this mission was another step forward, paving the way for future cooperations.