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Why can't they identify all unknown fallen soldiers w/ today's advancements?

With the unknown soldier in Arlington and all others that may be unidentified why can't the government and all the medical profession involved identify all the soldiers with today's technology? I remember that they successfully identified an unknown soldier with DNA awhile back (probably a few years back), it was a very large televised event.

19 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    In some cases, there isn't much left of the remains. I'm sure you're aware that human remains are organic in nature and thus decompose over time. Remains from Vietnam and before are fairly old and in most cases too decomposed and contaminated (from sources in the ground they're buried in) too identify.

    You need DNA to compare a body's sample to, this isn't always available. You need to GET a sample of DNA from the body, this is often not possible because DNA resides in areas that decompose relatively fast.

    Also, think of the financial cost of going over every finger or other loose bone (oftentimes for practical reasons a group of wounded soldiers would be buried in mass graves) to match up what belongs to who, and in some cases you'll have parts that can't be identified.

    Not even mentioning the remains that were cremated, they can't be identified in any way possible.

    Plus, the DNA records are not available from soldiers in WWII and Korea, the military ordinarily keeps those records, as well as medical ones, on file for only 50 years. Not to mention that not everyone back then had DNA on file.

    Finally, the emotional reason. Most loved ones of those who fell and weren't identified have long since made their peace with the situation and to bring this up again and to have to exhume and rebury their loved ones is too high a cost in most people's eyes.

    Hope this helps,


  • 1 decade ago

    There were 4 soldiers buried at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington. A WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam unknown were all there. They did identify and remove the Vietnam Unknown a few years ago. The others will likely never be identified. The problem is, you have to have a starting point, a clue as to who it might possibly be and then have DNA from a family member to match. And you would have to have information substantial enough to warrant disinterring the body. There may be some outside possibility of that happening with the Korean War Unknown, but it is virtually impossible for the WWII and WWI.

  • In today's military they can identify all soldiers for the most part. All soldiers who are assigned to hazardous duty have a DNA sample in their personnel file. When my husband and I joined the military it was still not a mandatory thing. It was only used for those who were assigned to duty that was life threatening. Therefore, my husband had a DNA sample in his record but I did not because my job did not deploy me to any hazardous duty while I was in. I do believe though that now these samples are placed in all members records. Hope this helps. The best way to get that question answered is to check with the Department of Defense or even a recruiter may be able to help you.

  • 1 decade ago

    Good question, and they are at that point. The reasons why they do not attempt to identify everyone from past wars is probably allot of things (Primarily money). You have to have a living relative to begin the process or it wouldn't work, too many unknowns from Korean war and previous where it would be too difficult to identify immediate family members. Recourse's would be limited in terms of how many unknowns they could test in a certain amount of time. To my knowledge there hasn't been any unknowns from Vietnam into present time. They even know the name of the unknown interred at the Tomb Of The Unknown.

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  • treat
    Lv 4
    5 years ago

    You must recall that to DNA a physique you're going to have to in shape it to an identity. There are service contributors in the tomb from WWI. Being in a position to get source DNA from someone from 1917 that didn't live prior 19 will not be probably. The guards have alot of symbolic explanations they protect the tomb and useful like simply insuring no person screws with the tomb. Somewhat over rated to look after a tomb but it surely simply suggests respect to insure nothing will happen to the memorial or the carrier members stays.

  • 1 decade ago

    Generally, you need a known tissue sample to compare the corpse with. Back then, live tissue samples weren't kept for this purpose. When you see someone getting identified now, it's probably because his descendants are around or something like that. Perhaps it has something to do with the Y chromosome which won't change as it's passed down through sons. This will not be a perfect test, but will give a probable answer.

  • 1 decade ago

    They were able to identify the unknown soldier from the Vietnam War because they were able to find a blood relative to match DNA. The unknowns from WWI, WWII and Korea have not been able to be identified because potential relatives to match DNA have not and probably will not be located.

    Source(s): Arlington Cemetery
  • 1 decade ago

    Actually there are only 3. A soldier from the Revolution, WWI and WWII, the Vietnam Unknown was Identified and it was then that the VIETNAM UNKNOWN TOMB was to remain empty.

  • 1 decade ago

    DNA has to be compared to a known sample. So if for instance, a child's body is found, the DNA could be compared to the mother's or father's DNA to establish that is their child. In criminal cases, a sample is taken from the accused to compare to what was found.

    The unknown soldiers are all pre-DNA testing bodies, so no sample was taken from them for their records, and since they are unknown, there is no one such as parents, children, or siblings to take samples from to establish a relationship.

  • 1 decade ago

    Until fairly recently, they didn't take tissue or DNA samples of military service members. Therefore, unless they were to take samples of from ALL families that still have loved ones missing in action, they would have no DNA to compare the sample from the deceased to for identification.

    You need more than just DNA, you need to have a place to start the comparison.

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