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JPAC Concludes Month Deployment to Sicily

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070926-27
Release Date: 9/26/2007 6:17:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason T. Poplin, Fleet Public Affairs Center Det. Sigonella

GELA, Sicily (NNS) -- Members of the Joint Prisoner of War (POW)/Missing in Action (MIA) Accounting Command (JPAC) concluded their second month-long tour of Sicily Sept. 20.

The members have traveled throughout the island visiting various points of interests from the U.S. led invasion of Sicily in 1943, to find and determine possible downed aircraft from World War II.

The mission of JPAC, as cited from their Web address is “to achieve the fullest possible accounting of all Americans missing as a result of the nation's past conflicts.

"The highest priority of the organization is the return of any living Americans that remain [POW]. To date, the U.S. government has not found any evidence that there are still American POWs in captivity from past U.S. conflicts.”

Working together with Naval Air Station Sigonella’s Public Affairs Office, JPAC members have commuted to numerous towns, speaking with local officials and media, encouraging residents with any information to come forward.

In addition to eyewitness accounts, local legend can also offer positive results at a time when people of the era are becoming increasingly fewer and the correlation of incidents that happened 60 years ago is becoming more difficult.

According to a pamphlet JPAC members have been distributing during their visits with officials, the search for unaccounted-for Americans begins with in-depth research. JPAC historians and analysts gather information such as correspondence, maps, photographs, unit histories, and medical and personnel records about POW/MIAs from many sources. At any given time there are more than 1,000 active case files under investigation.

Once research is completed to determine the likely location of an unaccounted-for individual, an investigative team is assigned to visit the site to conduct on-site surveying to determine if enough evidence can be found for excavation.

“In our first mission we found four cases of interest that we are recommending to our scientific board for excavation,” said Lt. Franklin Huffman, officer in charge for the European theater. “On the September mission we have not enjoyed as much [success] but there are a couple of cases of interest thus far.”

On site identification can be determined from several means. Often, pieces of aircraft can offer clues such as tell-tale markings on multiple components of the airplane ranging from engine or machinegun numbers to tail and radio call numbers.

Unfortunately, many of the sites in the European theater have been scavenged over the years, which has made the discovery of large aircraft wreckage not very realistic, according to Huffman.

Yet, with the assistance of local and numerous worldwide resources, JPAC identifies an average of two people per week and, over the course of a year, more than one hundred missing American servicemen are returned to their families.

“The Sicilians have been very helpful, very generous, and have a lot of hospitality,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jason Heyman. "They’ve been more than happy to assist in our mission."

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