Bernie O. Aaberg was an Army private with the 170th Engineer Combat Battalion from Minnesota who went missing in the Philippines during World War II. Frank W. Zywicki of New York also went missing in that war, a Naval quartermaster lost when his submarine, the USS Cisco, is believed to have been sunk by Japanese bombers in the South China Sea in late 1943.
Aaberg and Zywicki have the distinctions of being, alphabetically, the first and last service members on the U.S. military’s list of those missing in action. Between the two of them are more than 80,000 others.
Data from the Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) outlines the scale of the number of those still considered lost in action. The missing originated from each of the 50 states and any number of U.S. territories — including the Philippines, which was an American commonwealth at the time of the war. The three states with the most missing native sons and daughters are New York, California and Pennsylvania. (Were it a state, the Philippines would rank fourth on this list, with 4,533 service members listed as missing.) Relative to population, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and Iowa are missing the most service members.
The geography of those losses maps to the most significant U.S. conflicts of the 20th century. More than 10,000 Americans are considered missing after service in the Philippines, with thousands more missing in the surrounding waters. About 5,800 are missing in the Solomon Islands. More than 5,000 are missing on the Korean Peninsula. Thousands are missing in the South Pacific, in the North Atlantic and across Western Europe.
The DPAA continually updates its data as it locates the remains of those missing in action. On May 19, the agency announced that it had accounted for the remains of Marine Corps Reserve Cpl. Henry Andregg Jr., who was killed on the first day of fighting at Tarawa atoll in November 1943. Andregg’s remains had been interred in Honolulu and were identified this month using laboratory analysis.
More than 2,000 others have been similarly accounted for.
Many, particularly those lost at sea, probably never will be.