Anthropology, Department of


First Advisor

Dr. William Belcher

Second Advisor

Dr. Sophia Perdikaris

Third Advisor

Dr. LuAnn Wandsnider

Date of this Version

Summer 7-29-2022


McKinney, M. P. (2022). Tracking and Estimating The Commingling of Missing U.S. Service Personnel: A GIS and Forensic Anthropological Approach. (Unpublished master's thesis). University of Nebraska.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Anthropology, Under the Supervision of Professor William Belcher. Lincoln, Nebraska: July 2020

Copyright 2022 Mason P. McKinney


During times of war, the remains of fallen U.S. military service members overseas are often difficult to track postmortem as they move from their recovery location to a permanent cemetery. After a recovery, remains are typically sent to multiple temporary cemeteries, morgues, and/or identification points before reaching their final resting place. Repeated disinterments and reinterments among vast numbers of remains in multiple temporary locations may lead to unintended commingling. This analysis is meant to examine the postmortem movement of multiple U.S. military members and assess their potential for commingling based on historical records and identification reports supplied by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). The movements of five individuals are depicted using a geographic ArcGIS map where the association between individual remains can be assessed visually. When the data are available, these movements can be tracked to a grave plot-specific level. Placing basic cemetery templates over the satellite image of actual temporary and permanent cemeteries creates an interactive visual tool for assessing potential commingling by assessing possible mixture/commingling with nearby plots. This visual aid will be paired with temporal data regarding the affiliation between a set of remains and a temporary location in order to better determine the chance for any overlap between two individuals based on proximity of grave plots and commingling.

This project is useful in DPAA accessioned cases where extra skeletal elements (e.g., two left ulnae) may be present or when DNA analysis determines that one case has remains from two or more individuals or is inconsistent with a proposed name association.

Advisor: William R. Belcher