The remains of more than 6,300 troops have passed through the Dover Air Force Base Mortuary since 2001 according to a story in the Washington Post.
The Air Force dumped the incinerated partial remains of at least 274 American troops in a Virginia landfill, far more than the military had acknowledged, before halting the secretive practice three years ago, records show.
The landfill dumping was concealed from families who had authorized the military to dispose of the remains in a dignified and respectful manner, Air Force officials said. There are no plans, they said, to alert those families now.
However, Whitlock told NPR’s Morning Edition Thursday that there may be more cases because the practice has gone on for years, only ending in 2008.
As Whitlock said, troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have been involved in combat where “a lot of people are killed by bombs or die in explosions” that shatter bodies. “In many cases,” he said, “what happens is the morgue at Dover isn’t able to identify all the remains until after a funeral or until a body is returned to a family” — meaning that some body parts have remained behind at the morgue.
“What happened in these cases,” Whitlock said, “is the families had signed paperwork asking the military to dispose of these subsequent remains in a dignified manner. … The Air Force would have them cremated … and then have the ashes taken to a landfill. The families were never told about this.”
Some remains that were never identified were also disposed of in the landfill.