Air Force Dumped Thousands of Cremated Troops' Remains in Landfill -- Many More Than Previously Acknowledged

An already atrocious story has just gotten worse. Last month we learned that Dover Air Force Base had been caught dumping portions of troops' cremated remains in a Virginia landfill. Air Force officials said the practice "was limited to fragments or portions of body parts that were unable to be identified at first or were later recovered from the battlefield, and which family members had said could be disposed of by the military." Officials "could not estimate how many body parts were handled in this way."

Now the Washington Post has followed up on the story, reporting that the partial remains of at least 976 body fragments from 274 identified troops were disposed of in such a manner. In addition, a group of 1,762 unidentified remains were also disposed of in the landfill, for a total of more than 2,700 incinerated fragments. 

The new data, for the first time, show the scope of what has become an embarrassing episode for vaunted Dover Air Base, the main port of entry for America’s war dead.

The landfill disposals were never formally authorized under military policies or regulations. They also were not disclosed to senior Pentagon officials who conducted a high-level review of cremation policies at the Dover mortuary in 2008, records show.

Air Force and Pentagon officials said last month that determining how many remains went to the landfill would require searching through the records of more than 6,300 troops whose remains have passed through the mortuary since 2001.

Officials say they were just treating the remains as "medical waste." But clearly they knew they were doing something bad:

The Air Force said mortuary leaders decided to end the practice in May 2008 because “there was a better way to do it,” [Lt. Gen. Darrell D.] Jones said. The military now cremates unclaimed and unidentified body parts and buries the ashes at sea.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at December 8, 2011, 4:25am

Today's Top Stories