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SOURCE: PTI

The Department of Defense of the USA has intensified efforts to find and recover the remains of its over 400 personnel who had gone missing in India during World War II by joining hands with Gandhinagar-based National Forensic Sciences University (NFSU). Scientific experts at the NFSU will help the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA), a part of the Department of Defense (DoD) of the USA, to recover and identify these missing personnel to bring closure to their families.

“The mission of DoD agency- Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA) is to provide the fullest possible accounting for the missing personnel to their families and their nation,” DPAA mission project manager at NFSU, Dr Gargi Jani, has said. She said the Agency’s teams locate, identify, and repatriate the remains of the unaccounted-for service members from America’s past conflicts including World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and Iraq and Persian Gulf Wars.

“There are over 81,800 Department of Defense personnel of the US who are still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the World War II, and over 400 are missing in India,” she said in a statement. Jani said the NFSU will scientifically and logistically assist the DPAA in their mission.

“Partnering with DPAA in their noble mission is an honour, NFSU-DPAA will leverage the joint efforts in India to provide with fullest possible accounting to families of the missing personals,” Jani stated. The DAPP recently facilitated the last rites of US citizen Justin G Mills (25) who had died in World War II in 1943.

“Marine Corps Reserve 1st Lt. Justin G.Mills of Galveston, Texas, killed during World War II, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery May 26, 2021. In November 1943, Mills was killed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, in an attempt to secure the island in the fight with Japanese forces. “His remains were reportedly buried in the Central Division Cemetery, and later to the Lone Palm Cemetery on Betio Island. Mills was recovered in 2014 and accounted for in 2019. Mills’ niece and nephew were on hand to finally welcome their uncle home and lay him to rest,” as per the DAPP website.

The Gilbert Islands after its independence from the British are now called the Republic of Kiribati and it is an independent island nation in the central Pacific Ocean. “We are privileged and enthusiastic to enter into this formal partnership with India’s National Forensic Science University. Their renowned expertise and capabilities will advance our efforts to find and recover the remains of Americans missing from World War II in India,” Kelly McKeague, DPAA Director was quoted as saying in a statement by the DAPP.

McKeague highlighted the importance of the support of another nation in this endeavour. “The DPAA teams are currently in Cambodia and the Philippines (to find remains of missing soldiers), and a large team left Honolulu Feb. 20 for a 60-day mission in Vietnam,” the statement said.

The teams are following health and safety guidelines, and in doing so, these countries are willing to allow the DPAA back to continue their mission, it said. The DPAA has also established a three-way partnership with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and the NSFU with the virtual signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) dated May 27, to develop academic exchanges and cooperation in teaching and research.

With this MoU, the NFSU is hopeful to develop academic exchanges and cooperation in teaching and research in the areas of forensic anthropology, forensic archaeology and forensic odontology activities, it said. NFSU Vice-Chancellor Dr J M Vyas said the partnership with the DPAA will enable the scientific exchange in the areas of forensic anthropology and odontology and develop best practices for human identification.

“The NFSU has always taken a lead to promote forensics in a criminal investigation. This kind of partnership will create unique research opportunities and student exchange also,” he said in a statement. The NFSU was recently given the status of an Institution of National Importance and is the world’s first and only university dedicated to Forensic and allied sciences.