With excavations of Europe's killing fields still unearthing the mortal remains of thousands of fallen soldiers, World War II still isn't over for the people who find them, identify them and give them a proper burial.
Since the renewal of U.S. POW/MIA recovery efforts in the 1970s, the remains of nearly 1,000 Americans killed in World War II have been identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
The Nazis used various methods to dispose of the corpses of their victims. In concentration camps, bodies were typically incinerated in crematoria or on open-air pyres. This work was carried out by groups of prisoners called Sonderkommando.
Nine British soldiers who died in World War One have been buried more than a century after their deaths. Their bodies were discovered during engineering works in De Reutel in Belgium in 2018.
World War II Accounting
At the end of the war, there were approximately 79,000 Americans unaccounted for. This number included those buried with honor as unknowns, officially buried at sea, lost at sea, and missing in action. Today, more than 73,000 of those lost Americans remain totally unaccounted for from WWII.
John Tosh, the Director of the Texas Air Museum in San Antonio, Texas, is 87 and still going strong. He is a member of the Veterans of Underage Military Service, being only 15 or so when he enlisted in the U.S.Army. He didn't make it overseas before the war ended.
Dozens of remains are recovered every year, but about 12,000 Japanese are still classified as missing in action and presumed killed on the island, along with 218 Americans.
When the war ended, graves registration soldiers still had work to do—scouring battlefields for hastily buried bodies that had been overlooked. In the European Theater, the bodies were scattered over 1.5 million square miles of territory; in the Pacific, they were scattered across numerous islands and in dense jungles.
And between 1919 and 1922 the government identified, located and exhumed about 44,000 bodies and shipped them home for burial — many to the Washington region.
Most Americans regard World War II as a “just war” because the United States helped stem the vicious tide of global fascism. But during that war, American soldiers dismembered Japanese corpses and collected their body parts as souvenirs.
The ships offloaded the rubble in Manhattan, in the East River, and New York built on top of it, creating reclaimed land just east of Bellevue Hospital between 23th and 34th Streets.
If this wasn't possible, the bodies of soldiers killed in battle would be collected and given a mass cremation or burial. In the event the bodies couldn't be recovered, a cenotaph would be erected to serve as a monument to the individual.
The cemetery site, at the north end of its half mile access road, covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,386 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations.
Like World War I, families of those killed abroad could choose burial in an overseas military cemetery or choose to repatriate the remains of a loved one to U.S. soil. More than 60 percent of WWII families chose to have the remains returned to the United States for interment.
Given the vastness of the Pacific War, there are three cemeteries for the servicemen who fought and died there: one in Hawaii, and two in the Philippines, one at the former Clark Field, the other in Manila, according to the ABMC.
Many men killed in the trenches were buried almost where they fell. If a trench subsided, or new trenches or dugouts were needed, large numbers of decomposing bodies would be found just below the surface. These corpses, as well as the food scraps that littered the trenches, attracted rats.
They also assist in preparation, preservation, and shipment of remains. The Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs at Dover Air Force Base is where remains of those killed in action are processed and returned home. There are currently two U.S. Army Mortuaries located in Germany and Korea.
Historian John Sadler states that "Many who died that day in Waterloo were buried in shallow graves but their bodies were later disinterred and their skeletons taken. They were ground down and used as fertiliser and taken back home to be used on English crops.
Dead bodies of U.S. soldiers are buried at 96th Division Cemetery in Okinawa during World War II. Burial services for dead U.S. soldiers at 96th Division Cemetery in Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands during World War II.
Visiting Iwo Jima Today
The Japan Air Self-Defense Force also uses the base with a garrison of 400 troops on the island. Civilian access is severely restricted. Only a small number of official tour operators are allowed to land there with tourists.
U.S. casualties totaled about 28,000, including about 6,800 killed. Iwo Jima and the other Volcano Islands were administered by the United States from 1945 until they were returned to Japan in 1968.
STATUS OF THE POW/MIA ISSUE: September 17 , 2022
1,582 Americans are still listed by DoD as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War: Vietnam - 1,242 (VN-442, VS-802); Laos–285; Cambodia-48; Peoples Republic of China territorial waters–7.
At one time distributed by the National League of Families, bracelets are now available from a decades-long strong issue-supporter, the nonprofit, Ohio Chapter MIA-POW (see address below) which donates 100% of all proceeds to help sustain the League's efforts.
Captive or POW Pay and Allowance Entitlements: Soldiers are entitled to all pay and allowances that were authorized prior to the POW period. Soldiers who are in a POW status are authorized payment of 50% of the worldwide average per diem rate for each day held in captive status.