The long search goes on.
The long search for those missing in action since World War II continues unabated as research teams comb government archives and musty caves in an unrelenting search for the fate of those who never returned from war.
"These forever young men and women remain in the memories of their families," said National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson. "They disappeared into the mists of war--never to be forgotten."
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, many of the former Communist nations off-limits to US investigators after World War II are now open and eager to assist in the recovery of missing Americans. In the Pacific, work is underway on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima to find Marines lost in the bloody World War II battle, but whose bodies were never recovered.
"The DAV's mission calls for the fullest possible accounting of those missing in action, including the 74,000 from World War II," said National Legislative Director Joseph A. Violante. "We realize that the remains of far too many are not recoverable, but we are pleased that our government is working to recover as many as possible."
"The work to research, locate and return the remains of our missing in action is crucial to the promise of our country," said Adjutant Wilson. "We, as veterans and citizens, have an obligation to return our lost service members to their loved ones."
On Sept. 21, the nation remembers America's prisoners of war and those missing in action. National POW-MIA Day is marked with ceremonies, military bands and jet flyovers at the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C. It is a day in which service clearly above and beyond the call of duty will be saluted, and those lost and never returned are remembered.
Those searching for World War II missing in action visited the former Iron Curtain countries of Romania and Bulgaria in June. In July, the Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) researchers were in the former East Germany, Hungary and Slovenia investigating 19 other cases. Even as the nation marks National POW-MIA Day, investigators are pouring over archives seeking information about World War II losses in Czechoslovakia. And an expedition is planned to any World War II aircraft crash site near Russia's Vladivostok area. Meanwhile the former Soviet Union's files of those Americans believe captured and sent to labor camps remain sealed and off-limits to investigators.
Elsewhere, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) says efforts are underway to find some of the 250 missing from the 1945 invasion of Iwo Jima that claimed 6,821 American lives and resulted in 22,000 wounded.
Among those being sought is U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. William H. Genaust, who was killed in action after filming the flag-raising atop Mr. Suribachi. It is the first search of the volcanic island since 1948, when the American Graves Registration Service recovered most US service members killed in the campaign.
Genaust used a movie camera to film the flag-raising atop Mt. Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945, standing only a few feet away from AP photographer Joe Rosenthal, who took the seminal photograph of World War II. Genaust was killed nine days later.
Many of those missing on Iwo Jima were lost at sea, and their remains cannot be recovered. Others were killed in caves that were sealed, collapsed or buried by explosions. The search team hopes to recover any remains they find on the island.
"The search should and will go on for our MIA's," said Violante. "Every family who has lost a loved one in service to our country de serves the fullest possible accounting of their fate and their return."
"We are thankful that the men and women of DPMO, JPAC and other government agencies are doing all they can to return loved ones to their families," said Adjutant Wilson. "It is our hope that families who have suffered for decades will finally have answers, and that the service of these missing men and women will be honored with their return home."