Air Force dumped ashes of more troops
The Air Force dumped the incinerated partial remains of at least 274 U.S. troops in a Virginia landfill, far more than the military had acknowledged, before halting the secretive practice three years ago, records show.
The dumping was concealed from families who had authorized the military to respectfully dispose of remains, Air Force officials said. There are no plans, they said, to alert those families now.
The landfill disposals were never formally authorized. They also were not disclosed to senior Pentagon officials who conducted a review of cremation policies at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary in 2008, records show.
Air Force and Pentagon officials said last month that determining how many remains went to the King George County landfill would require searching through the records of 6,300 troops whose remains have passed through the mortuary since 2001.
"It would require a massive effort and time," Jo Ann Rooney, the Pentagon's acting undersecretary for personnel, wrote in a Nov. 22 letter to Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J.
Holt, who pressed the Pentagon for a constituent whose husband was killed in Iraq, accused the Air Force and Defense Department of hiding the truth.
"What the hell?" he said in an interview. "We spent millions, tens of millions, to find any trace of soldiers killed, and they're concerned about a 'massive' effort to go back and pull out the files and find out how many soldiers were disrespected this way?" He added: "They just don't want to ask questions or look very hard."
This week, after The Post pressed for information, the Air Force produced a tally based on a Dover database. It showed that 976 fragments from 274 military personnel were cremated, incinerated and taken to the landfill between 2004 and 2008.
An additional group of 1,762 unidentified remains were collected from the battlefield and disposed of in the same manner, the Air Force said. Those fragments could not undergo DNA testing because they had been badly burned or damaged in explosions. The total number of incinerated fragments dumped in the landfill exceeded 2,700. Read more
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