Officials at Dover Air Force Base have revealed that they dumped the partial, cremated remains of at least 274 American soldiers into a Virginia landfill, finally putting a number to unfortunate "gross mismanagement" at the military mortuary. The Air Force admitted to the practice of dumping partial remains and body parts last month, but had previously refused to estimate how many soliders' remains had been disposed of in this manner, saying that “it would require a massive effort and time to recall records and research individually." However, after being pushed The Washington Post and some members of Congress, the mortuary released the count from its own electronic records.
The first official record of the practice came in 2004, but the electronic database only goes back to 2003. Also, the widow of an Army sergeant killed in Iraq says that she was told by a mortuary official that remains had been taken to landfills since at least 1996.
Officially, between 2004 and 2008, 976 fragments and body parts belonging to the 274 soldiers were "cremated, incinerated and taken to the landfill" in addition to 1,752 other fragments that were too damaged to be identified. No attempt was made to notify the families of the identified soldiers, because relatives had previously indicated they did not want to know if more parts were discovered. Even after the news of the scandal broke and records re-examined, they will still not be notified now.
The practice was ended in 2008, and unclaimed and unidentified remains of soldiers that are too small for normal burial are now cremated and buried at sea.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.