Operation Missing Man


Dear MIA Family Member,

We can pay no greater respect to those men and women who made that ultimate sacrifice in service to their country than to see that they are found, identified, and returned to American soil.

Rolling Thunder is a national organization dedicated to educating the public on all aspects of POW-MIA issues, and to assist wherever possible in the recovery and identification of POW and MIA personnel.

Operation Missing Man in particular is an ongoing Rolling Thunder project to coordinate all resources possible to identify remains that have been recovered but not yet identified.


Most of you already know many details about the MIA recovery process. In short, when new remains are found that are believed to belong to MIA personnel, they are sent to the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii. There they use many methods including personal items found at the site (dog tags, etc.), dental records, action reports, and finally DNA to make positive identifications.

You might wonder why they can’t instantly identify recovered remains from a DNA sample like forensic scientists do on TV. To do this they would need a pre-existing sample of DNA from all the missing service members to be identified, and DNA samples were not routinely collected from our service men and women until the Gulf War.

This is where you, a family member of an MIA, can help. There are currently a number of recovered personnel awaiting identification, and by contributing DNA you might help identify some of them. While nothing is guaranteed and we do not want to raise false hopes, it is possible that your DNA might either positively identify your own missing relative, or by process of elimination help identify someone else’s relative.

Who is an eligible donor of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)?

The type of DNA used to identify remains is inherited only from the mother. This means that each person’s mother, as well as brothers, sisters, sister’s children and many other relatives share the same strain of mtDNA. This is useful because it means that mtDNA from relatives (sometimes quite distant ones) can be directly linked to mtDNA from unidentified remains. The downside is that children of a missing male cannot provide an mtDNA reference sample. The gender of the missing person and the donor are irrelevant. In a family tree linking the donor to the missing person, every intermediate person connecting the donor to the missing person must be a female.

This chart illustrates possible maternal donors

We hope you can help

You may be able to help identify America’s missing heroes. If you are a family member of an individual who is Missing in Action, JPAC CIL may be able to use a sample of your DNA to help them with the identification process.

You can contact the appropriate Service Casualty Office directly. Simply tell them you wish to contribute to the Family Reference Samples (FRS) project.

Service Casualty Offices serve family members. Each Military Department maintains their own service casualty office, and the Department of State does the same for civilians. The officials in these offices serve as the primary liaison for families concerning personnel recovery and accounting. Full-time civilians who have worked this issue for many years and are experienced and knowledgeable staff these offices to answer your questions. Military officials also assist and help explain the methods used to account for missing loved ones. Each office dedicates for family use the following addresses and telephone numbers:

Department of the Army

US Army Human Resources Command Attn: AHRC-PED-F 

200 Stovall Street Alexandria, VA 22332-0482

(800) 892-2490

U.S. Marine Corps

Manpower and Reserve Affairs (MRA) Personal & Family Readiness Division

3280 Russell Road Quantico, VA 22134-5103

(800) 847-1597

Department of the Navy

Navy Personnel Command Casualty Assistance & Retired Activities Branch      POW/MIA Section (PERS-P665)

5720 Integrity Drive Millington, TN 38055-6210

(800) 443-9298

Department of the Air Force

HQ, Air Force Mortuary Affairs

10-100 Reunion Place, Suite 260  San Antonio, TX 78108-4138

(800) 531-5803

Department of State

Office of American Citizens Services & Crisis Management CA/OCS/ACS/EAP 

2201 C Street, Northwest, Room 4811  Washington, DC 20520-4818

(202) 647-6769