Dover AFB Scandal: U.S. War Heroes of Iraq, Afghanistan Met Unlikely Resting Place

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By Erik Pineda | December 9, 2011 4:46 PM EST

Body parts or remains of many U.S. servicemen killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 may have been mishandled, according to a report by the Washington Post.

According to the Post, cremated remains and body parts of about 274 soldiers were unceremoniously dumped in a landfill, purportedly with the full knowledge of officials running Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

The Air Force facility serves as the receiving point for remains of troops who were killed in action while serving overseas.

The improper disposal, the report said, was not brought to the attention of key Pentagon officials until the practice was halted in 2008, with the U.S. military higher-ups ordering a probe on the base's cremation system when the news broke.

The paper, citing anonymous Air Force officials, also indicated that family members of the dead soldiers were kept in the dark on how the remains of their loved ones were disposed of.

Dover officials, the Post said, were given authority by the soldiers' families to arrange for the disposal of the cremated remains, including some body parts, but in a respectful and dignified fashion.

The news came out following charges in early November that Dover's gross mismanagement resulted in the desecration of the nation's war dead, specifically of two unidentified soldiers who have been discovered with missing body parts that were not properly documented by Dover's mortuary.

Ensuing inquiries further uncovered irregularities, which prompted Pentagon officials to put in place new procedures that will be observed in the future.

According to the Post, Dover officials took disciplinary action against the morgue commander of the base and its staff as a result of the investigation, though nobody was fired.

Aside from the already cited cases, Air Force officials, the Post said, have admitted that thousands of war dead remains met the same fate, which were delivered to the base's mortuary for proper disposal as they were beyond recognition.

Conducting DNA identification on the remains was next to impossible, the Post source explained, as they were either too damaged for reconstruction or badly burned.

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