News | May 21, 2019

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FGCU students, faculty to spend June searching for missing WW2 servicemen

An FGCU team, led by Alison Elgart, chair of the Department of Social Sciences, with support from forensic studies professor Heather Walsh-Haney, will travel to Germany in early June to search for servicemen missing in action from World War 2. The mission, for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), will include 10 FGCU students – six graduates, one undergraduate and three recent graduates. Two additional archaeologists, two experts from the DPAA and a linguist from Germany will assist the team.

“We have been tasked with a particular MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) that has been deemed recoverable,” said Elgart. “We cannot provide the exact location or the names of the missing crew that we are looking for, but can say that we will be trying to recover four missing airmen who were shot down by German aircraft during a bombing raid in 1943. A site has tentatively been identified by the DPAA, and our job is to determine whether we can recover any of the missing crew from this area. Our team consists of archaeologists and students who are experienced in archaeological excavation and osteological recovery.”

This will be FGCU’s first mission of this kind with the DPAA. The mission of the DPAA is to “provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation.”

“We are all humbled and honored by this opportunity to provide service to the U.S. government and to FGCU, and to give some sort of closure to grieving families. Everyone is working pro-bono and are not profiting from this project in any way. We hope to succeed and make everyone proud,” Elgart said.

Members of the DPAA team include:

  • Scientific Recovery Expert: Alison Elgart, chair of the FGCU Department of Social Services
  • Principal Investigator: Heather Walsh-Haney, forensic studies professor and chair of the FGCU Department of Justice Studies
  • Scene photographer: Dee Lopez, FGCU forensics lab manager
  • FGCU undergraduate student: Wilitza Santos
  • FGCU forensic studies graduate students: Liz Ameros, Brooke Smith, Amy Pham, Shannon Dery, Craig Sherman, Kristina Startt
  • Recent FGCU graduates: Kathryn Ivanovich, Julie Evo, Connor Hawkes
  • DPAA: Medic, unexploded ordnance expert
  • Linguist: Wolf Goettel