The story of the quest to discover the fates of the 56,000 American servicemen who served in the Pacific theater during World War II and were declared to be missing in action.
New York Times Magazine writer Hylton picked up the story in the wake of scuba diver Pat Scannon's successful efforts to find evidence in the waters around Palau. The diver found the underwater wreckage of three bombers shot down during the battle for Palau, one of the bloodiest in the whole war. One of those shot down was tail gunner Jimmie Doyle, whose family was informed he was missing in 1944 but never had definitive knowledge of his fate. Thanks to Scannon—who sought to “honor the military tradition in his family without abandoning his sense of self”—and the team he established, Jimmie's son, Tommy, and his wife eventually discovered what had happened to the father declared missing many years ago. Scannon's investigations into the submerged wrecks led to the development of his own expertise and the organization of the “BentProp” team of divers, which took on responsibility to help account for the MIAs lost in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Cooperating with the military's Central Identification Laboratory and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command enabled Scannon and his team to successfully track down the story of the sunken B-24s. Hylton draws from a treasure trove of Doyle’s letters, which later provided the impetus for Tommy to seek out Scannon and his investigators. The author skillfully weaves these strands together against a dramatic account of the Pacific theater, particularly the action in the air over Palau and its surroundings.
An absorbing read that is well-structured to pull readers through the narrative. A perfect complement to Bryan Bender’s You Are Not Forgotten (2013).