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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

These are questions representative of those most frequently asked by MIA family members, veterans and the general public.

What is Personnel Recovery?
What is Personnel Accounting?
What Defense Agencies Support Personnel Accounting?
With whom should I talk to concerning a missing family member?
What resources are available to family members?
How do family members learn about accounting process results?
What case pursuit categories are used by DoD?
May DPMO release the names and address of family members?
May family members visit excavation sites?
Who are eligible to donate mitochondrial DNA?
What and where is the Johnnie Johnson List?
Is there an award or medal for POWs?
What is Personnel Recovery?

Personnel recovery is the sum of military, diplomatic, and civil efforts to affect the recovery and reintegration of isolated personnel.

Isolated personnel are those US military, Department of Defense (DOD) civilians, and DOD contractor personnel (and others designated by the President or Secretary of Defense) who are separated from their unit while participating in a US-sponsored military activity or mission and who are, or may be, in a situation where they must survive, evade, resist, or escape.

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What is Personnel Accounting?

When American personnel remain captive, missing, or otherwise unaccounted-for at the conclusion of hostilities, the DoD accounting community becomes the responsible agent for determining the fate of the missing and where possible, recovering them alive or recovering and identifying the remains of the dead.

For those killed-in-action, the accounting community is charged with locating, recovering and identifying their remains. More than 88,000 Americans remain missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War.

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What Defense Agencies Support Personnel Accounting?

Many DoD entities play critical roles in achieving the fullest possible accounting. They bring together myriad specialties that are responsible for performing the majority of our fieldwork.

  • The Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL)
  • The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
  • The Life Sciences Equipment Laboratory (LSEL)
  • The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC)
  • Service Casualty and Mortuary Office
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With whom should I talk to concerning a missing family member?

Your primary points of contact are personnel in one of the following Casualty Offices:

  • United States Air Force 1 (800) 531-5501
  • United States Army 1 (800) 892-2490
  • United States Marine Corps 1 (800) 847-1597
  • United States Navy 1 (800) 443-9298
  • Department of State 1 (202) 647-6769

Once a relationship is established with the appropriate Casualty Office, DPMO is able to provide access to officials, facts, and other resources to help clarify the status of your missing family member. The support provided by DPMO is covered in FAQ 6.

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What resources are available to family members?

DPMO provides family members access to officials, facts, and other resources based on research conducted by DPMO personnel and others. The means to provide this is:

  • Family Briefings
  • Casualty Offices
  • Reports – News Items
  • Information – Case Files
  • Public Documents

More information about each of these categories is available in the basic research information for family members page.

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How do family members learn about accounting process results?

Once officials recommend, review, and approve the identity of remains, the government provides the results to the family. Officials from the armed forces and the scientific community go to the home of the family to explain the findings.

When the family accepts the findings, the Defense Department helps make plans to inter their loved ones with honor and dignity.

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What case pursuit categories are used by DoD?

In 1994-95, members of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), the Joint Task Force - Full Accounting (JTF-FA), and the Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CILHI) conducted a comprehensive review of Southeast Asia MIA cases to identify the best "next steps" in the investigation of each case. As part of that process, they divided the cases into three groups:

  • Further pursuit
  • Investigation deferred
  • No further pursuit

Additional information is available on the detailed archival research page.

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May DPMO release the names and address of family members?

DPMO will protect the names and addresses of family members from release. In specific cases where the family member gives written authorization, DPMO may release name and address information.

At Family Update meetings, family members receive the option to provide a written statement to release their personal information to fellow attendees. DPMO facilitates this release of information to help the families build a network of support.

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May family members visit excavation sites?

Family members who choose to visit an active excavation site with the inherent hardships and difficulties associated with such an undertaking must understand that the United States Government cannot accept liability or responsibility to provide arrangements for guides, interpreters, drivers, vehicles, housing accommodations, etc.

Additionally, family members are required to work through normal Department of State and embassy channels to properly coordinate and schedule their visits. For details, please refer to DoD policy statement at [more...]

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Who are eligible to donate mitochondrial DNA?

Maternal family members are eligible to provide blood samples for the purpose of establishing a comprehensive family reference DNA database.

A family reference database that includes an mtDNA sample for each of the unaccounted-for servicemen enables comparisons between remains in support of the identification process.

Families should contact their Service Casualty Office POC for details regarding sample provision. Also, a helpful eligible donor chart is provided on the possible donors page.

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What and where is the Johnnie Johnson List?

In October 1950, a North Korean Army major took command of over 700 American service men interned as prisoners of war (POWs). Only 262 of these men returned alive. One of the survivors, Army Private First Class Wayne A. "Johnnie" Johnson, secretly recording the names of 496 fellow prisoners who had died during their captivity and has had it published.

DPMO is actively attempting to advise the families of the 496 men identified on the Johnnie Johnson List. We have direct contact with their organized group, "Tiger Survivors Association" resulting in a very good exchange of information to include additional circumstances of loss and family locator information. Presently, we have a very good idea of when and where most of those lost eventually died, and the locations of their burials. We will use this information in the planning for future excavations in Korea.

To learn more about the heroic efforts of PFC Johnson and receive a copy of his list, visit the Johnnie Johnson page.

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Is there an award or medal for POWs?

Yes. Information regarding the Prisoner of War Medal can be found here.



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