Anthropology, Department of


Date of this Version



2021 Belcher, William R., Calvin Y. Shiroma, Lesley A. Chesson, Gregory E. Berg, and Miranda Jans. The use of forensic anthropology in the identification of U.S. war dead in the 21st century. WIREs Forensic Sciences online.DOI:


U.S. government work


The Scientific Analysis Directorate of the U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD) Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is a unique entity within the U.S. Government. This agency currently houses the world's largest, accredited skeletal identification laboratory in the world, in terms of the size of the scientific staff, global mission, and number of annual identifications. Traditional forensic anthropology is used for the formation of a biological profile (biological sex, stature, population affinity/ancestry, and age) as well as trauma and pathologies that may be compared with historical records and personnel files. Since World War II, various scientists associated with DoD have conducted base-line research in support of the identification of U.S. war dead, including, but not limited to, histology, the use of chest radiography and clavicle comparison, and statistical models to deal with commingling issues. The primary goal of the identification process of the Scientific Analysis Directorate is to use all available historical, field, and forensic methods to establish the most robust and defendable identification as scientifically and legally possible.