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Where They Lay: Searching for America's Lost Soldiersby Earl Swift
Synopses & Reviews
Where They Lay melds an account of an elite military team's high-tech, high-risk search for a Vietnam War pilot's remains with a remarkably immediate and poignant retelling of his final intense hours. In far-flung rain forests and its futuristic lab near Pearl Harbor, the Central Identification Laboratory (CILHI) strives to recover and identify the bodies of fighting men who never came home from America's wars. Its mission combines old-fashioned bushwhacking and detective work with the latest in forensic technology.
Earl Swift accompanies a CILHI team into the Laotian jungle on a search for the remains of Major Jack Barker and his three-man crew, whose chopper went down in a fireball more than thirty years ago. He interweaves the story of the recovery team's work with a tense account of Barker's fatal attempt to rescue trapped soldiers during the largest helicopter assault in history. Swift is the first reporter ever allowed to follow a recovery mission, as these unique archaeological digs are called, in its entirety, and he got his hands dirty, combing the jungle floor for clues amid vipers, monsoons, and unexploded bombs.
Where They Lay resounds with admiration for those who fell and those who seek them. But Swift also raises hard questions about these recovery missions. Is it worth $100 million a year to try to bring home the lost from old wars? Is it worth the lives of today's soldiers? (Seven Americans died in the line of duty just months before Swift went in country.) And is the effort compromised by the corruption among native officials overseeing missions in their countries? As new conflicts draw our attention, Where They Lay throws brilliant light on war's cost to soldiers and to those they leave at home.
"[A] solid and informative study by a seasoned military journalist....Neither antimilitary nor prowar, the book exhibits thorough research [and] intelligent assimilation of personal experience..." Publishers Weekly
"Solidly detailed....An unusual tale of war and remembrance, with particular appeal — but perhaps disturbing undertones — for Vietnam and air-combat buffs." Kirkus Reviews
In this gripping true-grit adventure story, award-winning journalist Earl Swift accompanies an elite scientific team on a search for a military pilot lost thirty years ago in Southeast Asia. The recovery mission is part of an effort by the military's Central Identification Laboratory--Hawaii (CILHI), the largest forensic lab in the world, whose methods combine the latest in forensic technology with old-fashioned bushwhacking, archaeology, and detective work. The quest to find Major Jack Barker and his three-man helicopter crew brings the team to deeply impoverished Laos, where they comb the jungle floor for clues to the decades-old crash amid vipers, monsoons, and unexploded bombs. Expertly recounted, Where They Lay is a suspenseful, often harrowing tale of mud, sweat and science.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -304).
About the Author
Earl Swift joined his first recovery mission in Southeast Asia, as a staff writer for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, in July 2000. He was taken by chopper to a dig site in Vietnam's Quang Nam Province, along the border with Laos, to join a team searching for a Green Beret sergeant lost in a freak air accident in 1966. He returned to Southeast Asia twice in 2001, once on assignment for Parade and once to camp in the jungle of southeastern Laos. The only journalist ever to accompany a search expedition from start to finish, Swift has also flown two missions in Papua New Guinea to visit recovery teams in search of missing World War II air crews. He is currently a staff writer for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, and his work has also appeared in Parade and The Best Newspaper Writing 2000.
Table of Contents
I. In the Land of the Lost 1
II. The Missing 63
III. Bone Work 155
IV. Pieces of the Past 193
V. Answers 235
VI. Perseverance 269
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