In contrast to the blunt-edged weapons used to exert political control over science, the political exploitation of missing American service members has been more nuanced and complicated. For example, the US government has used foreign detainees and prisoners to exchange for American servicemen held by hostile governments. In other cases, the missing have been used for domestic political purposes by US politicians.
In this chapter, Dr. Cole reveals how the Reagan administration put pressure on DoD to entomb the remains of a deserter, an enlisted soldier suspected of desertion, and a civilian in the Tomb of the Unknowns. The Central Identification Laboratory identified the remains of these three before they could be entombed. The Reagan administration then compelled DoD to provide identifiable remains that were entombed in an elaborate ceremony organized for the president’s reelection campaign in 1983. The remains were exhumed, identified, and returned to the next of kin after Reagan left office.