News & Opinion | June 5, 2018 5:00 am

Meet the Team Trying to Identify 83,000 Missing US Military Members

Forensic scientists and military experts travel the world searching for possible remains.

This picture taken on April 8, 2018 shows recovered weapons and personal belongings to missing US soldiers in Vietnam displayed at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Hanoi. - The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) has been working in Vietnam for more than 30 years, before the former war foes established diplomatic ties in 1995. The agency was born out of a war-era effort by the wives of US POWs in Vietnam who demanded US leaders do more to get their imprisoned husbands home. (Photo by Thanh NGUYEN / AFP) / TO GO WITH Vietnam-war-history-remains,FEATURE by Jenny Vaughan and Quy Le Bui        (Photo credit should read THANH NGUYEN/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on April 8, 2018 shows recovered weapons and personal belongings to missing US soldiers in Vietnam displayed at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Hanoi. - The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) has been working in Vietnam for more than 30 years, before the former war foes established diplomatic ties in 1995. The agency was born out of a war-era effort by the wives of US POWs in Vietnam who demanded US leaders do more to get their imprisoned husbands home. (Photo by Thanh NGUYEN / AFP) / TO GO WITH Vietnam-war-history-remains,FEATURE by Jenny Vaughan and Quy Le Bui (Photo credit should read THANH NGUYEN/AFP/Getty Images)
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A new story in Popular Science takes us inside the search for the 83,000 US military members—dating back to World War II—who are still missing. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) regularly dispatches teams of scientists and military personnel to search for the remains of those missing, many of whom died in plane crashes or shipwrecks.

The teams deployed include everything from aircraft experts to archaeologists to anthropologists. When the teams return from their missions, whatever evidence they have found is sent to the lab for DNA and forensic testing, with the hopes of identifying the remains.

After the program suffered heavy criticism for identifying just 72 military members a year between 2002 and 2012, the DPAA took over the missions and last year 201 missing members were identified. Currently, roughly 700 staff members are working on 1,200 recovery cases.