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Pentagon Decides To Dig Up Remains Of Long-Lost Soldier

The grave at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, where Bud Kelder's family believes he is buried.
NPR/Courtesy of John Eakin
The grave at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, where Bud Kelder's family believes he is buried.

After years of refusing to act, the U.S. military has decided to disinter the possible grave of Pvt. Arthur "Bud" Kelder, a POW from World War II who is buried anonymously in an American war cemetery in the Philippines.

Military officials also plan to disinter the remains of 10 other men in the same unmarked grave, says Navy Cmdr. Amy Derrick-Frost, a Defense Department spokeswoman. Derrick-Frost did not say what led the Pentagon to change its stance.

Earlier this year, ProPublica and NPR reported on the struggle by Kelder's family to have him identified — and the resistance they have faced from the Pentagon.

As detailed in the news reports, the military's effort to recover MIAs such as Kelder has suffered from outdated scientific methods, overlapping bureaucracy and poor management. In 2013, the military, which receives about $100 million annually to do the job, identified just 60 service members out of about 83,000 Americans missing from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

In March, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced an overhaul of the agencies responsible for finding, identifying and returning the remains of servicemen lost in past wars.

There's no timeline yet for the exhumation, but if the remains turn out to be Kelder's, his family plans to bury him in the family crypt in Chicago's Norwood Park neighborhood, where he grew up.

More of Kelder's story, and an update to the NPR/ProPublica investigation, can be found on ProPublica's website.

This story was co-reported with Megan McCloskey, a reporter who covers the military for ProPublica.

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