Despite battling requests for years, U.S. military officials have agreed to dig up the possible remains of a World War II POW who is buried in an unmarked American war cemetery in the Philippines and others buried with him.
Pentagon officials say they will disinter the possible grave of Pvt. Arthur "Bud" Kelder, as well as the remains of 10 other men presumably buried in the same plot, according to a blog post for National Public Radio.
A Pentagon spokeswoman did not specify why the U.S. military changed its stance on the issue after the Kelder family has fought to have their long-lost relative identified for years.
Officials have told multiple news sources that the military's effort to recover missing soldiers such as Kelder have been slowed by outdated scientific methods, poor management and oversight, and overlapping bureaucracy.
NPR's report said the military receives about $100 million annually to recover POW/MIA soldiers, but only identified 60 service members last year out of 83,000 Americans missing from World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Experts from organizations dedicated to recovering missing servicemen and women say, however, that the process to complete the job is very time and research intensive and worry that political pressure could have prompted officials to grant priority in this particular case.
"While pleased for the Kelder family and others whose loved ones were killed and apparently buried in that same location, we are hopeful that the decision to place priority on this recovery won't set a pattern of reacting and responding to political pressure, rather than the established criteria on which such decisions are normally based," Ann Mills-Griffiths, chairman of the Board of the National League of POW/MIA families, told The Washington Times.
"There has been no question in the minds of the families affected that their loved ones died in WWII while serving our country; therefore, enduring years of uncertainty didn't apply, as it does for nearly half of the 1,642 still missing and unaccounted-for from Vietnam War, as well as some last known alive in captivity from the Korean War," she said.
"It's erroneous to list some 83,000 U.S. personnel as missing from past wars, knowing that many thousands were the result of losses aboard ships sunk some 70 years ago. The accounting mission is not simply 'finding, identifying and returning the remains' of U.S. personnel, as is stated in this article, but also a comprehensive investigation process the precedes such field operations and results in information for the families. In many cases, reports of such investigations may be all they ever receive, but the families will know as much as can be obtained and have confidence that a good-faith effort was made," Ms. Mills-Griffiths added.
Officials have not set a timeline for the exhumation in the Philippines, but if the remains are identified as Kelder's, his family said they plan to bury him in the family crypt in Chicago's Norwood Park neighborhood, according to the NPR's report.
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