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ALBANY, N.Y. – Justin Taylan has been to the remote Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea dozens of times in the past two decades, spending countless hours slogging through crocodile-infested sw
ALBANY, N.Y. – Justin Taylan has been to the remote Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea dozens of times in the past two decades, spending countless hours slogging through crocodile-infested swamps in his quest to document as many World War II airplane wreck sites as possible.
Since 2013, he has conducted those missions for the newly reorganized Pentagon agency whose predecessor he and others had criticized for years for failing to recover and identify more remains of U.S. service members.
Taylan’s hiring is part of the military’s plans to reach out to private groups and others to help with the search for thousands of American war remains scattered from Pacific jungles to the European countryside.
Though he said he cannot comment on the details of the cases he has worked on under his contract, Taylan said he has documented more than 80 wrecks and war-related sites.
“So many organizations have something to give and share,” Taylan, 37, said. “It’s an incredible turn of events to support the mission and get more MIA cases resolved.”
The Pentagon lists 83,000 MIAs as unaccounted-for from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. More than 73,000 are from World War II, with many of those deemed not recoverable because they were lost at sea.
In 2009, Congress set a requirement that the Pentagon identify at least 200 sets of remains a year by 2015. But less than half that number has been identified each of the past two years.
Earlier this year, the Department of Defense unveiled its revamped Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, a move that came a year and a half after The Associated Press obtained an internal Pentagon study that criticized previous efforts as being in danger of spiraling from “dysfunction to total failure.”
The new agency is working with nonprofit groups and private companies.