Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tyler Thompson Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
KOROR, Palau (Jan 11, 2018)- The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) deployed an Underwater Recovery Team (URT) comprised of U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force service members and Department of Defense civilians aboard the USNS Salvor (T-ARS-52), January 7, 2018. The team continues their search for a missing pilot whose aircraft was downed in 1944 during carrier-based strikes over Ngerekebesang Island, Republic of Palau. [restrict]
This is not DPAA’s first mission to the site. Recovery activity began in 2015 when the Bent Prop Project, a private, non-profit organization that searches for missing military service members in Palau and elsewhere, discovered the site. On this mission DPAA is relying on the Military Sealift Command (MSC) vessel USNS Salvor and Mobile Diving and Salvage Company ONE-SIX to recover evidence.
The DPAA recovery team is highly specialized and diverse, consisting of a forensic archeologist, diving officer, master diver, forensic photographer, explosive ordnance disposal technician, and noncommissioned recovery specialists. It meets the highest standards of archaeology and forensic science in conducting its recoveries.
Richard Wills, DPAA underwater archeologist leading the scientific effort, stated, “We are using systematic forensic scientific methods to further excavate and complete the area, in order to recover any remaining probative evidence such as remains, ensuring this wreck site is completely recovered.”
The team will excavate the area with a variety of archeological tools and will meticulously wet-screen the bottom sediment along a systematic grid pattern in search of any remaining evidence of the missing aviator. The project will take place over the next several weeks with the ultimate goal of providing the fullest possible accounting. The DPAA laboratory will analyze all recovered evidence before making an official identification.
U.S. Army Capt. Ezra Swanson, DPAA team leader, emphasized the importance of the recovery explaining, “It takes an incredible amount of resources and hard work from our team and partners, but the mission is absolutely worth it as we strive to achieve the fullest possible accounting of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. We do whatever possible to bring these Americans home and give solace and answers to our POW/MIA families.”
Wills and Swanson specifically noted that the support from the Koror State Government, the Bureau of Cultural and Historical Preservation, the Environmental Quality Protection Board, and other Palauan authorities have been instrumental to the search efforts.
Despite being missing for 74 years, the United States remains committed to this WWII pilot as DPAA continues their mission to provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation. [/restrict]