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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 8, 2000 – The National)---The Commander of the U.S. Army's Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii (CILHI) has thanked PNG for assisting in the laboratory’s work in searching for, identifying and repatriating the remains of U.S. servicemen and women missing in action during World War II.

The Commander, Colonel David Pagano, and head of CILHI's expedition planning, Major Howard Lim, were in Port Moresby to personally thank PNG for the support and assistance provided to CILHI's investigation and recovery teams.

Speaking at a meeting with officers of the National Museum and Art Gallery (NMAG), Col. Pagano outlined the importance of CILHI's work in the identification and repatriation of the remains of U.S. service people.

Col. Pagano said that even though WWII ended 55 years ago, for the families whose loved ones were reported as "missing in action" and the veterans who served, the pain of what really happened to their family members or fellow servicemen or women was still raw.

"When we're able to provide families with some sense of closure by saying, 'here are the remains of your brother, your child,' tears of sorrow and gratitude fill their eyes."

"It means so much to them and to me personally to be able to do this. But we couldn't do our mission at all without the enthusiasm and assistance of officers of the NMAG, the local people who live in the areas we work in and PNG in general," he said.

He said the identification and recovery of those missing in action had been successful and told those present -- Mr. Alan Latimer, the deputy chief of mission of the U.S. Embassy and officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and NCDC -- that CILHI was only interested in the remains of America's service people.

The crash sites and aircraft serial numbers are essential to the identification process, which also involves laboratory analysis of dental records and DNA samples.

"It is completely in our interests that sites and WWII wreckage, which are part of PNG's national heritage, not be disturbed," he said.

Col. Pagano commended the foresight of PNG, whose War Surplus Materials Act seeks to protect such sites and wreckage.

It is important to note that the Act, which is administered by the National Museum's Modern History Department, doesn't govern the remains and personal effects of those Allied personnel who lost their lives on PNG soil.

Col. Pagano and Major Lim's visit was followed by the arrival of two investigation teams which are currently investigating in the Rabaul, Port Moresby and Lae regions, whose purpose is to collect and record data. No recovery of any remains is planned at this time.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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