U.S. Air Force officials have acknowledged that body parts of dead American servicemen who served overseas, were lost by mortuary staff at the Dover Air Base in Delaware.
U.S. Air Force officials have admitted failures arising from "gross mismanagement" at the military mortuary at Dover Air Base in Delaware. The mortuary is responsible for receiving America's war dead, but sloppy procedures allowed body parts to go missing, whilst other bodies were cremated and then dumped in landfill sites.
Concerns were first raised by three mortuary whistle blowers, according to the Telegraph. Allegations of attempts to fire the three for bringing the issue to light are being investigated, but all have retained their positions at the mortuary.
An investigation into missing body parts conducted by the Air Force concluded that certain body parts of deceased soldiers returned from Afghanistan were missing. While accepting responsibility for the mishandling of bodies, the Air Force said there was no question of criminal wrong-doing at Dover, the Washington Post reported. Three mortuary staff were punished, but not fired.
According to the New York Times the mortuary also disposed of some body parts by passing cremated remains to a private contractor who then incinerated them and used the ashes as landfill at a site in Virginia. However, the practice was "limited to body parts that families of the war dead did not want to receive." Other body parts recovered from battlefields were not always identifiable. The families were not told how the mortuary was disposing of the bodies. The practice has now ceased and the ashes are placed into urns and buried at sea.
Chief of Air Force, Staff General Norton Schwartz said "There is nothing more sacred ... than treating our fallen with reverence, dignity and respect. This is tough stuff." Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has called for an independent review whilst accepting the findings of the Air Force investigation.