US air force used secret landfill site to bury soldiers

Frozen arm of dead marine was taken off with hacksaw so his body would fit into his coffin

Los Angeles

The United States Air Force secretly used a landfill site to dispose of the incinerated remains of hundreds of troops killed in action during the War on Terror, it has been revealed.

Figures made public yesterday show that partial remains of 274 fallen men and women were sent to a site in King George county, Virginia, between 2004 and 2008. Their families, who had given permission for the remains to be disposed of in a "dignified" manner, were never told of the practice.

The scale of the scandal, in The Washington Post a month ago, is far larger than previously thought. In addition to 976 identified body fragments, Pentagon records show that a further 1,762 unidentified battlefield remains, too badly damaged to be subjected to DNA analysis, also ended up in the landfill.

Officials say they have no plans to contact families of the troops to inform them of the fate of their loved ones. They say that establishing the identities of the affected men and women would be too expensive and time-consuming.

A letter from the Pentagon to Rush Holt, a Democratic congressman investigating the affair for a constituent whose husband was killed in Iraq, argues that determining whose remains went to landfill, "would require a massive effort" and involve examining the records of roughly 6,300 troops.

"What the hell?" Mr Holt responded in the Post. "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? They just don't want to ask questions or look very hard."A month ago, federal investigators published a highly critical report uncovering "gross mismanagement" of the morgue at Dover air base, the main port of entry for the bodies of fallen American soldiers returning to the US.

It found that body parts were left in freezers for months or even years. In one incident, the disfigured arm of a dead marine was removed with a hacksaw, without permission from his parents, so that he could fit into a coffin.

Whistleblowers who tried to bring attention to shoddy practices at the morgue were ignored or threatened with dismissal. The "pattern of failure" identified in the report extended to body parts of individual soldiers falling out of plastic bags, and getting mixed in with the remains of others. In a letter to a war widow uncovered by the Post, the mortuary director Trevor Dean said the practice had been common since at least 1996, when he started there.

That the scandal never came to public attention sooner is perhaps a natural by-product of efforts by successive Presidents to keep Dover air base from public scrutiny. During the first Gulf War, George HW Bush banned news coverage of the return of fallen troops there. The ban was continued by his son during the second Gulf War, and lifted by the Obama administration in 2009.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower