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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.

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