As technology has improved over the decades, so have the offensive and defensive capabilities of the U.S. military, which has become more surgical and risk averse over time. This has led to a steep drop in those missing in action in every major conflict since World War II. Of course, part of this is also due to the sheer scope of WWII. (This is the year the most Americans died in war since 1980.)
When American personnel are missing or are otherwise unaccounted-for, they are classified missing in action, or MIA. They may be determined as killed in action, but if their body was not recovered, they remain unaccounted-for. The Department of Defense accounting agency is in charge of determining the fate of the missing or killed in action, and for locating, identifying, and recovering their remains.
More than 81,900 Americans remain missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. But since WWII the number of personnel lost, killed, or unaccounted-for has been incredibly reduced. In fact, during the 20-year engagement in Afghanistan, not a single American was reported as MIA. And in other recent conflicts, within the last forty years, there remain few personnel reported as MIA, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
Capt. Paul Lorence of California was lost in Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986. The Airforce pilot went down in his F-111 during a strike over Libya. Two Navy pilots were then lost in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Lt. Cmdr. Barry Cooke of Texas and Lt. Robert Dwyer of Ohio were downed separately over the Persian Gulf. They are classified as Killed in Action Body Not Recovered.
Most recently, three civilians, DOD contractors, were reported unaccounted-for in Operation Iraqi Freedom between 2003 to 2010: Kirk Ackermann of New Mexico, Timothy Bell of Alabama, and Adnan al-Hilawi of Florida.
Most of the missing in action, however, came in earlier conflicts, mostly in WWII. In fact, WWII accounts for over 72,000 of the over 81,000 missing. Because of that, the more populous states at the time tend to have more missing in action. (These are states where the most americans serve in the military.)
To determine the military service members missing in action in each state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the DPAA. We ranked states by the total number of personnel missing in action in conflicts from WWII onwards. All figures listed are from the DPAA. It should be noted that while some estimates exist for MIA prior to WWII, the DPAA only publishes figures for WWII and onwards.
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