Author(s): Palo JU, Hedman M, Sderholm N, Sajantila A
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Abstract AIM: To present a summary of the organization, field search, repatriation, forensic anthropological examination, and DNA analysis for the purpose of identification of Finnish soldiers with unresolved fate in World War II. METHODS: Field searches were organized, executed, and financed by the Ministry of Education and the Association for Cherishing the Memory of the Dead of the War. Anthropological examination conducted on human remains retrieved in the field searches was used to establish the minimum number of individuals and description of the skeletal diseases, treatment, anomalies, or injuries. DNA tests were performed by extracting DNA from powdered bones and blood samples from relatives. Mitochondrial DNA sequence comparisons, together with circumstantial evidence, were used to connect the remains to the putative family members. RESULTS: At present, the skeletal remains of about a thousand soldiers have been found and repatriated. In forensic anthropological examination, several injuries related to death were documented. For the total of 181 bone samples, mtDNA HVR-1 and HVR-2 sequences were successfully obtained for 167 (92.3\%) and 148 (81.8\%) of the samples, respectively. Five samples yielded no reliable sequence data. Our data suggests that mtDNA preserves at least for 60 years in the boreal acidic soil. The quality of the obtained mtDNA sequence data varied depending on the sample bone type, with long compact bones (femur, tibia and humerus) having significantly better (90.0\%) success rate than other bones (51.2\%). CONCLUSION: Although more than 60 years have passed since the World War II, our experience is that resolving the fate of soldiers missing in action is still of uttermost importance for people having lost their relatives in the war. Although cultural and individual differences may exist, our experience presented here gives a good perspective on the importance of individual identification performed by forensic professionals.
This article was published in Croat Med J
and referenced in Anthropology