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Military laboratories conduct investigations to identify soldiers many decades after their deaths in World War II

Carrie Brown looks at the objects (Via Alex Hazelwood/Getty Images)

Many American families have grown up without knowing what happened to their loved ones who died serving in World War II and other wars.

But at a federal laboratory located above a bowling alley at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, and a similar lab in Hawaii, efforts are underway to provide answers. Their goal is to help about 200 families each year give their relatives a proper burial.

Carrie Brown, a manager at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency lab at Offutt, emphasized the generational impact of this work. She explained, “They may not have known that person personally, but the memory and story of them get passed down through the years.”

As Memorial Day approaches and the 80th anniversary of D-Day nears, the urgency of their mission becomes more apparent.

Carrie Brown speaks in the lab (Via Alex Hazelwood/Getty Images)

Working with forensic experts, medical examiners, and historians, these labs are racing against time to identify soldiers whose remains are scattered across battlefields worldwide.

Advancements in DNA technology and innovative methods, such as comparing bones to military X-rays, enable the labs to make more identifications annually. There are still around 72,000 World War II soldiers and approximately 10,000 more from other conflicts who remain missing. Experts estimate that about half of these soldiers can still be recovered.

Since the Offutt lab opened in 2013, the number of identifications has been steadily increasing. In 2013, they identified 59 service members. Last year, they identified 159, with a goal to reach 200 identifications annually.

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