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News & Stories
News | Sept. 7, 2018

DPAA Families/VSO/MSO Quarterly Call and Update (Thursday, July 19, 2018, 2:00 PM)

By DPAA Public Affairs

Summary: Keeping the families of our missing as well as veterans informed is a primary objective of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency's (DPAA) mission. This update is intended to provide an overview of efforts during the previous quarter to account for our missing.


 The agenda includes:


·         Update on the Personnel Accounting Mission (Director Kelly McKeague)

·         Partnerships and Innovations Update (Deputy Director, PI, Rocky Gillette)

·         Operational Update (Deputy Director Operations RDML Kreitz, Dir Indo-Pac Colonel Mike Gann/Dir Euro-Med Colonel Brian Pearl)

·         IDs/Disinterments (DPAA Lab Director, Dr. John Byrd)

·         Question &Answer


Update on the Personnel Accounting Mission (Director Kelly McKeague)

Interest in the POW/MIA mission is increasing both in Congress and the public; DPAA trajectory in terms of activities and achievements is a positive one.


North Korea

From Singapore Summit, there is strong priority and commitment at all levels of the government to recovering and repatriating remains, including those already in their possession. Overarching strategic engagement with Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) still sensitive, fragile, so some information we’re able to share with you, others we are not at liberty to do so at this time.

State Department and United Nations Command have the lead on repatriation and coordination, but DPAA is involved in all-aspects of the process.


The 200 number in the press is what they previously told Governor Richardson, but they have not acknowledged a number since the Summit. But, whatever number of boxes the DPRK chooses to turn over will be what they believe to correspond to the number of remains; based on past unilateral turnovers we assess the number will be something different due to a commingling of remains.

Whenever the DPRK repatriates remains, DPAA will have personnel at the turnover to conduct field forensic reviews of the remains before they are flown to Hawaii and accessioned into the DPAA laboratory.


If future negotiations reach agreement on the resumption of field operations, DPAA will be ready. We have drafted concept plans based on our 10-years of experience as well as the 2011 record of arrangement in our planning. If DPAA is permitted to resume operations in North Korea, we do not anticipate adverse impacts to our global missions as currently planned.

Will inform all of you as soon definitive information becomes available.



Our budget request for FY19 is $131M and has been reviewed by the Authorization and Appropriation Committee in the House and Senate. House Appropriations Committee added $10M for Southeast Asia (e.g. Vietnam War) operations. The House added an additional $20M for Korean War during floor debate. The Senate Appropriations Committee made no adds to our budget request. The Senate Appropriations bill has not yet been to the floor for a vote. Once the Senate passes an appropriations act it will be reconciled with the House version via Conference Committee.


DPAA submitted a legislative proposal for FY 2019 to enhance information sharing with our partners and to accept gifts for the purposes of facilitating personnel accounting. This proposal was included in the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act which was signed into law on August 13.


Thanks again to those of you who continue to educate Congress on our mission’s importance.




Successful trip to Northeast Asia

Japan: high priority from their Prime Minister and Diet to recover their war dead; allows us to coordinate WWII activities throughout Indo-Pacific Region. We are also establishing a formal agreement between DPAA and the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare to better synchronize our procedures and increase collaboration on activities throughout the Pacific Theater where both nations have unaccounted-for personnel.


Republic of Korea: We continue to improve our partnership with our counterparts at the Ministry of National Defense Agency for KIA (Killed in Action) Recovery and Identification (South Korea) (MAKRI).


People’s Republic of China: We continue to press them on records; they are open to more unilateral investigations and private partnerships. We have a Research Investigation Team (RIT) in-country now.


VFW Convention

Looking forward to addressing VFW’s Convention in Kansas City next week; thanks for the staunch support.



Visa sanctions were recently imposed on Burma and Laos, but are tiered depending on those nations’ cooperation and will increase if provisions of the sanctions are not met; DPAA currently has ongoing missions in Laos and missions planned in both countries next year; so far there have not been any negatives impacts.


KWVA Board Meeting, Arlington, VA July 26, 2018

Principal Deputy Director Fern Sumpter Winbush and Indo-Pac Korean War analyst, Dan Baughman, briefed the board on Korean War accounting developments.


PBS Nova Press Tour For “Last B-24” Documentary July 31, 2018

Panel discussion. The “Last B-24” (Tulsamerican) session will feature a short clip of the film, followed by a panel discussion with participants and producers. Documentary is set to air on November 7 on PBS. More details will be sent out as we get closer to the date.


Korean-Cold War Annual Briefings

From August 9-10, 2018, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) will host the annual 2018 Korea/Cold War Government Briefings in Arlington, Virginia and will present information on efforts to achieve the fullest possible accounting of missing Americans from the Korean and Cold War. Highlights include a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown, briefing from DoD leadership, the Korean War Disinterment Project Panel and a dinner hosted by the Republic of Korea Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs.


National POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremony, September 21, 2018

This year’s poster is available to order online at:


Family Member Updates (FMU)

We hosted an FMU in Louisville, KY on May 19, 2018, with 181 family members attending. Local representatives from Congressional offices and Veterans Service Organizations attended as observers. The next FMU will be in Philadelphia, PA on September 8, 2018. The full FMU and Annual Meetings schedule can be found at:


National League of Families Meeting

Last month, the Agency supported the 49th Annual Meeting of the National League of Families from June 20 to 24. More than 20 personnel from DPAA, DoD, and the Department of State provided briefings to the 300-person audience. Also, the families of more than 120 losses had one-on-one meetings with DoD experts and casualty officers to update them on the government's efforts to account for their respective loved ones. DPAA also hosted a tour of the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico for more than 180 family members.


Fam-Web Update

In June 2018, DPAA launched the Family Website (Famweb): a centralized online resource designed to increase proactive information flow and improve website experience for family members of personnel missing from past conflicts. The site can be accessed from the DPAA website "Families" tab. From Famweb, family members can select a specific conflict to view a summary and photo of their loved, with newly available battle level summaries (Tet Offensive, Battle of Tarawa, etc.) developed through working with our University partners.


DAV National Convention

On Sunday, July 15, 2018, Mrs. Fern Sumpter Winbush and Mr. Steve Thompson presented a DPAA update at the DAV's POW/MIA Committee meeting at their annual convention in Reno, NV. Mrs. Sumpter Winbush briefed larger picture issues such as the Agency's budget, partnership
relationships, and the increased number of identifications made in recent years, and Mr. Thompson spoke about family and veteran engagement strategies, scientific advances, identification of Unknowns, and both current and planned operations.


Partnerships & Innovation (PI) Update

Operations Q3 (covered individually below)

·         IP:

o    2 completed

o    1 in progress

o    2 impending (Q4)

·         EM:

o    3 supported (complete)

o    2 completed

o    3 in progress

o    7 impending (Q4)

·         Working assessment for FY18 is a cost avoidance of $11.3M based on total annual partner field missions


Partnership Arrangements

·         Implemented Q3 (14 total)

o    ISSA --Inter-Service Support Agreement (agreements with other federal entities, e.g., agreement to allow DPAA to use warehouse space on a military base; allowing Parks Service archaeologists to assist DPAA ) : 2

o    MOU Memorandum of Understanding: 9

o    Grant/CA--Cooperative Agreement (agreement between USG and a non-federal entity to cooperate to achieve a common end.): 1

o    PPA--Partner Project Agreement (the more specific, more detailed agreement that follows the generic MOU) : 2

·         In-Progress Q3 (10 total)

o    MOU: 9

o    PPA: 1

·         Implemented Q4 (2 total)

o    MOU: 1

o    PPA: 1



·         Active: 22

·         In Development: 5



·         Current research fellows include:

o    6 historians, 1 underwater archaeologist, 1 archivist, 2 family historians

·         One historian vacancy and one archivist vacancy (offer extended) still open

·         Developing scientific research efforts (Isotopes)



Field Operations Overview

·         Deputy Director for Operations’ May 2018 trip to France, Belgium, Germany, and Sicily. RDML Kreitz conducted a successful trip to Europe in May, meeting with American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) staff in Paris, participating in several memorial services, conducting recovery site visits in France and Sicily, visiting DPAA’s Germany Detachment, and meeting with U.S. military leaders in Germany.

·         This is the busy season for field operations. We have 10 missions in progress, with 20 more planned for execution over the next 90 days.

·         We are working on our FY 2019 OPLAN and have built a plan to ensure no degradation under a Continuing Resolution.

·         This is Colonel Mike Gann’s last quarterly update as he will be retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps in September. Colonel Brian Peterson, USMC, is the incoming Director, Indo-Pacific Region.

·         We are we welcoming Colonel Brian Pearl today, our new Director, Europe-Mediterranean Region.


Europe-Mediterranean Region:


·       Operations in Last 60 Days: (May-June)

o    Austria (18-2AT) Partner recovery of a terrestrial aircraft crash site

o    Belgium (18-1BE) Partner underwater investigation of an uncorrelated aircraft crash site

o    France (18-1FR) Organic recovery of a terrestrial aircraft crash site

o    France (18-2FR) Underwater recovery of an aircraft crash site off the coast of Corsica and in partnership with the French Navy

o    Germany (18-3DE) Organic investigation of aircraft crash sites

o    Italy (18-5IT) Organic recovery of a terrestrial aircraft crash site in Sicily

o    Russia (18-1RU) Organic investigation of 3 crash sites and one cemetery location in partnership with Russian military coordinated through the US/Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs


·    Operations next 30 days: (July-August)

o    Austria (18-1AT) Organic investigation of terrestrial aircraft crash sites

o    France (18-6FR) Organic recovery of a terrestrial aircraft crash site

o    France (18-7FR) Partner recovery of a terrestrial aircraft crash site

o    France (18-8FR) Partner recovery of a terrestrial aircraft crash site

o    Germany (18-2DE) Organic recovery of a terrestrial aircraft crash site

o    Germany (18-6DE) Organic investigation of terrestrial battlefield losses

o    Germany (18-8DE) Partner recovery of a terrestrial aircraft crash site

o    Germany (18-9DE) Partner Recovery of a terrestrial aircraft crash site

o    Germany (18-12DE) Partner recovery of a terrestrial aircraft crash site

o    Italy (18-4IT) Organic investigation of terrestrial aircraft crash sites

o    Latvia (18-1LV) Partner underwater survey for potential Cold War crash site

o    Malta (18-1MT) Partner underwater investigation of an aircraft crash site

o    United States, Alaska (18-1US) Partner underwater investigation of an aircraft crash site and general survey of potential wreckage around Kiska, Alaska

·    Disinterment Operations:

o    Exhumed 15 Unknowns in Q3 from ABMC cemeteries in Europe

o    Planned exhumations of 14 Unknowns from ABMC Europe in August; 2 Unknowns exhumed in July


·         U.S. – Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) Update

o The USRJC conducted Cold War Working Group Technical Talks in Vladivostok, Russia in May and will conduct Korean War Working Group Technical Talks in Arlington, Virginia in August. The USRJC is also currently planning the 22nd Plenum, which will occur in Washington, DC in November.



Indo-Pacific (IP) Region:


·            Operations in Last 60 Days: (May-June)

o   Laos (18-4), 3x RT/ 1x IT

o   Vietnam (18-3), 4x RTs, 1 x Vietnamese RT, 1 x Unilateral Excavation Team; 1 x Research and Investigation Team

o   Tarawa (18-1), via History Flight Group (DPAA partner)

o   Philippines (18-3), via University of Illinois-Chicago (DPAA partner)

o   Solomon Islands (18-1), 2x RT/ 1x IT

o   South Korea (18-2), 1x IT

o   China, 1XRT


·         Operations next 30 days: (July-August)

o    Laos (18-5), 3 x RTs

o    Solomon Islands (18-1), 2x RT/ 1x IT

o    Papua New Guinea (18-2), 1xIT/1x Partner IT (via University of Queensland)


·         Disinterment Operations:

o   Punchbowl Cemetery (Hawaii): Excavated 16 Unknowns in last thirty days; there are none planned for August.

o   Manila American Battle Monuments Commission: exhumed 23 in June, 2018.


Scientific Analysis:


·         DPAA anticipates many more identifications before the end of the fiscal year. The lab has added additional staff and are expanding our facilities in Hawaii (Bldg. 200).

·         Working with the Defense Forensic Enterprise, we are in the process of standing up our stable isotopic analysis testing capability. This involves testing of bones and teeth and provides a geographic area of origin for remains. This is helpful for Korean War remains as some

percentage is of foreign nationals. The isotopic testing will enable us to differentiate between Asian American servicemen and ethnic Korean remains. This is critical information when paired with other evidence to establishing an identification.

·         We now have the largest scientific staff ever and are expanding our lab facilities. Statistics:

FY 2018 Identifications, as of 16 Jul 2018:

o     Total = 118 (identifications of unaccounted-for personnel)

o     WWII = 87

o     Korean War = 25

o     Cold War = 0

o     Vietnam War = 6


AFMES-AFDIL: Dr. Tim McMahon

·         Our goal was to complete hiring 28 staff by FY18. Through reprogramming we were able to hire 51 and are in the process of hiring an additional six.

·         It is very important to remember that techniques that are used on losses that happened a few years ago are not viable for losses that occurred decades ago because the DNA degrades over time.

·         We are the only lab in the US with a validated extraction method for chemically modified remains—Next Generation Sequencing or NGS. We have recently added three new NGS instruments which will greatly improve our through put.


Questions and Answers


Jim Fisher, Korean War Veterans Assn: On Aug 11 our organization will conduct the reading of the names of the missing from the Korean War. So far, about 40 families of the missing are participating. The ceremony is open to the public and should conclude by 6 pm. Also, on July 27 there will be a ceremony at the Korean War Memorial to commemorate the signing of the Armistice in 1953. KWVA is following the remains repatriation details with great interest.


Rick Downes, Coalition of Families: Q: I know the media has reported the 200 number of remains, have the North Koreans acknowledged a number and why are they picking 55?

A: No, the North Koreans have not referred to a specific number. We don’t know why the North Koreans selected 55. We can expect commingling.


Q: How long until the remains reach the tables and how is the table space?

A: Once the remains are accessioned into the DPAA Laboratory, they will go straight into the Korean War Project with no delays. We are getting more laboratory space and have copious table space. There will be no delays; we will begin the analysis the day they arrive.


Q: If Joint Recovery Operations are allowed, how long until they would begin?

A: Our first opportunity for operations after negotiations occur would be spring of 2019.

Q: Why have we not gone to the UN Cemeteries and will we be asking to investigate crash sites?

A: We have asked to excavate the UN Cemeteries in previous negotiations and will continue to ask for this. We will also request to visit crash sites in future operations.


Sherra Basham, Korea-Cold War Families of the Missing: Expressed her thanks to Colonel Mike Gann for his years of service.


Q: Can we be informed of the location of funerals so that we might attend?

A: If the family consents to the release of that information, then we will provide it to you.


Ann Mills Griffiths, National League of Families: Q: Was the $10 million plus up for South East Asia you mentioned in the appropriations specifically for the Vietnam War?

A: Not specific for the Vietnam War, however, based on last year’s reporting requirement the intent is for those additional funds, should they survive the Conference, to apply them to Vietnam War accounting efforts.


Mary Ann Reitano, WWII Families for the Return of the Missing: Thanked Col Gann for his years of service.

Q: Will we be providing talking points for the Laos delegation?

A: We are unaware of any upcoming Laos delegations, but will check with our counterparts at the State Department to ensure we have an opportunity to provide input.


Frank Metersky, Korean War Advocate: Q: Has DPAA asked what has to happen before we can negotiate with North Korea to resume field operations?

A: At this time we do not have any indication when talks will occur; we remain in close contact with State of Secretary Pompeo is still pressing hard on the issue.


Q: Are we doing field operations in China.

A: We did a WWII case in 2017, and will use a partner for a Korean War loss in 2019.

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Public Affairs Contact Information

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency PAO
Washington, D.C.
2300 Defense Pentagon
Attn: Outreach and Communications
Washington, D.C. 20301-2300