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In Search Of Lost Soldiers

The U.S. military has installed an information-management system to track and catalog documents used to determine the fate of those missing in action
Researchers trying to discover the fate of thousands of U.S. soldiers, sailors, and airmen missing in action in the past 60 years or so are using a new information-management system to keep better track of documents used in their investigations.

The U.S. Navy Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command is charged with investigating the cases of military personnel missing in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and Cold War incidents. Researchers use hundreds of thousands of documents to help pinpoint where and when soldiers went missing and identify sites where forensic investigative teams can search for remains.

Materials perused by researchers include military-service and medical records, military-unit histories, photographs, and maps stored in more than 4,000 archive boxes.

To catalog and track materials, the command installed Cuadra Associates Inc.'s Star information-management system late last year. Before the system's installation, spreadsheets were the most-sophisticated tracking method some researchers were using, and there was no formal checkout process for files. "We were losing items," says research historian Heather Harris.

Researchers now inventory materials and enter detailed descriptions of the contents of each file into Star. When the system is operational later this year, researchers will be able to locate documents linked to individual soldiers using keywords, Harris says. Digitized images and other electronic files stored in the command's computers also can be managed and retrieved using Star. Researchers' ID badges will contain bar codes that will be scanned when they check out items.