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For the Unknown Soldiers

The US Department of Defense is enlisting genetic genealogy approaches to identify the remains of unknown soldiers, according to the New York Times.

The Defense Department has sought to identify recover and identify the remains of service members who have died since the start of World War II, it notes. Initial efforts focused on examinations of bones, dental records, and paper trails, with DNA testing, once available coming at the end as a confirmation test, the Times says.

Ed Huffine, who worked at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab in the 1990s, tells the paper that order should be changed. "Switching to DNA-first will be faster, cheaper, and produce better results," he adds at the Times. "It just makes sense."

The Times further notes that traditional methods of identifying unknown soldiers are especially challenging for Black soldiers as families tend to be spread across the country and there are often fewer official records.

Timothy McMahon from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System tells the Times that they are developing the policy for using genetic genealogy approaches to ensure while it is used to uncover the identities of the soldiers, the privacy of the living is also protected.

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