FIGHTING THE ELEMENTS
All of this technology and manpower is employed in a fight not
just against time, but against the most formidable enemy of all:
the elements. In a recent interview, Cronauer explained that the
job gets even tougher when nature erodes the evidence. Try finding
clues amid a weathered coral reef in the South Pacific, or
recovering traces of a tooth, a bone fragment or a dog tag from
a mountainside crash site where the fighter jet disintegrated on
impact. You might as well pan for gold at Sutter’s Mill.
Still, despite the odds, investigators strike gold now and then,
such as when they discovered thirteen World War II Marine
Raiders killed in battle on the Gilbert Islands while attempting
to divert the Japanese from Guadalcanal. Every year investigators
manage to identify upwards of 100 people, but all too often
searches come up empty. For example, they’re still looking for
Navy pilot Michael Scott Speicher, a captain shot down in the
first Gulf War. Which makes you wonder what drives the 68-
year-old Cronauer to pursue such a sad mission when he could
retire and play with his grandchildren. Love of country, yes.
Duty, sure. But, above all, the answer is Vietnam.