Dentist's Handwritten Records End Mystery of Missing Marine

Independent researcher identifies remains of Richard Murphy
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 10, 2018 12:58 PM CDT
In this Nov. 11, 2012, file photo, rows of crosses totaling 16,933 Latin crosses, 164 Stars of David and 3,740 unknowns, dot the 152-acre American Cemetery on U.S. Veterans Day at the American Cemetery...   (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)
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(Newser) – Gerard Murphy never met his uncle Richard. But the Potomac, Maryland, native grew up hearing stories of the former journalist who enlisted in the Marines during World War II and disappeared during the June 15, 1944, amphibious assault on the Pacific island of Saipan. "This was a mystery in our family for basically my entire life," said Gerard Murphy, a lawyer. That all changed in 2015, when he was contacted by Ted Darcy, an independent researcher specializing in identifying World War II-era military remains. Darcy, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant, believed he had made a match between Richard Murphy's dental records and the remains of an unidentified Saipan casualty buried in the Philippines as unknown soldier X-15. Three years and many steps later, Richard Murphy's remains are finally coming home, the AP reports.

A service casualty officer for the Marine Corps explains the identification process is complicated by the relatively primitive nature of the medical records from that era. For example, the dental records on file for each American soldier and Marine were essentially done by hand instead of with an X-ray machine. "Back then, the dentist would literally look into your mouth and manually fill out a chart," she said. Still, Darcy was able to make the connection using the same records, and a DNA test verified the match. "The military said they tried but they couldn't figure it out," he said. "I think they're just overwhelmed." Richard Murphy's remains are expected to arrive in late November, where they will be reburied in a cemetery in Silver Spring, Maryland, "right next to his mother," Gerard Murphy said. Click for more on the incredible story.

(Read more World War II stories.)

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