Our guiding principles are:
- The remains are sacred. Only the US Military has any right to disturb the site, search for remains or contact families. There are examples of individuals disturbing sites either to recover plane wrecks or out of a less respectful attitude toward both the site and those that have taken care of it in the past. We don’t condone those approaches
- The US Government is not always the most efficient contact for local residents with relevant knowledge. The US contacts other countries on a government to government basis. In some countries the host country has insufficient infrastructure in an area to be informed of sites and/or there is an alternate set of authorities, either religious or tribal, that may be more effective. Project Homecoming can help in those cases.
- The Military is under funded in both locating and recovering the missing, but its problems are greater in locating sites potentially involving remains. We can help locate remains directly while supporting funding of both locating and recovering remains
- The Military's prioritization in recovering remains is inefficient, prioritizing among wars and regions. We advocate equal treatment of all missing, seeking funding that allows a systematic search for the missing while survivors and witnesses remain themselves alive.
Our specific role differs by war.
Prior to the Vietnam War and the associated wars in Laos and Cambodia our expectations were that there would be many unidentifiable remains. In earlier wars, 1 in 5 dead becoming missing was common. Technology for recoveries was modest. Maritime losses were more common and by tradition and geography much less likely to yield identified remains. All of these circumstances combined with the scale of the conflict leave World War II the war with the highest number of missing, (73,000) tied with Korean War in percent (18% of dead are Missing).
World War II
The US Military stopped systematically looking for World War II dead in 1950; its current efforts are overseen by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Project Homecoming can aid recoveries from World War II three ways:
- We can advocate and exemplify the use of contemporary technology to recover the missing of World War II
- We can establish rapports with local villagers and others around the world that are hard for the US Government to duplicate on an official basis
- We can support archive research to locate specific MIA’s.
Korean War missing are largely (85%) in North Korea. Access to the country depends on America’s overall relationship with North Korea. Most of the Missing are buried at battlefields the US has been unable to visit since the war. There are hundreds of Korea remains that have been returned to the US labs but not identified, as well as hundreds more that have been buried as unknowns for whom further forensic research might yield identities.
Tradition and regulation require that the most recent war be the most fully funded. Project Homecomings role must be to try and assure that enhance efforts elsewhere don’t come at the expense of the Southeast Asia recoveries.