The project was headed by the US Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), which has as its mission “to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing personnel to their families and the nation”.

The DPAA deployed an underwater-recovery team made up of divers from the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Department of Defence.

They were operating from the US Navy Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Salvor, which has its own decompression chamber and a 40-ton-lift crane.

The recovery team included a forensic archaeologist, diving officer, master diver, forensic photographer, explosive-ordnance-disposal technician and non-commissioned recovery specialists.

“It’s very labour-intensive work and they’ve had a large amount of bottom time making this operation successful,” said Lt-Cmdr. Tim Emge, the US 7th Fleet Salvage Officer, explaining that between one and six divers had been working 12-hour-plus days on the operation for the past two months.

Working in depths down to 30m, the dive-team had excavated the area using one and sometimes two large sifting baskets that would be filled with sediment over multiple hour-long dives. It then took more than five hours to sift through each basket.

The operation was supported by the Koror State Government, the Bureau of Cultural & Historical Preservation and other Palauan authorities.

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