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Resolved: Advances in Forensic Identification of U.S War Dead

Before the Civil War, the United States had no national policy or program prepared to deal with the identification of war dead. Many service members remained unidentified, buried in nameless graves across the nation’s landscape. This experience gave rise to the military’s current responsibility to identify those who died while in service to this country.

RESOLVED highlights the underlying forensic sciences that have evolved in fulfilling this nation’s commitment to the identification and commemoration of the U.S. service member.

This exhibition presents the six lines of evidence critical to the positive identification of a deceased service member. The sequence -- starting with Material Evidence, then Fingerprinting, Dentistry, Anthropology, Pathology, and DNA – reflect the real-world process that a service member’s remains follow at the mortuary, leading to a scientific identification.

Audio Highlights:

  • Dental Identification: Hear a forensic dentist speak about the importance of records for the identification of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division who died in a plane crash in 1985 at Gander, Newfoundland.
    Part 1 | Part 2
  • Scharf Case Study: Hear Mrs. Patricia Scarf speak about her husband, his death, recovery, identification, and his final burial at Arlington National Cemetery in 2006.
    Part 1 | Part 2