Mystery Unlocked: Get to Know Professor Ann Bunch

Anne Bunch in Southeast Asia

Before teaching at Brockport, Bunch served as a forensic anthropologist for the U.S. Army – where she helped uncover the Last Flight of Bomber 31.

Before Ann Bunch taught criminal justice at SUNY Brockport, she spent seven years working as a forensic anthropologist with the U.S. Army. While her laboratory was based in Hawaii, she spent most of her time traveling to other countries, typically in Southeast Asia, searching for the remains of soldiers that were missing in action (MIA).

Bunch would oversee the process of excavating and searching extraction zones for either bones or personal material that she could use to identify soldiers that had been MIA, often for decades. Reaching the extraction zone often involved long hikes up a mountain or a helicopter ride with the locals from the area. The extraction zones were determined by eyewitness accounts and previously gathered information throughout the decades that led up to their mission.

“Sometimes these zones would be a small six-by-six-foot square, and other times they could be the size of a football field,” Bunch said.

One of Bunch’s most memorable assignments was the Last Flight of Bomber 31. She led a 10-person Army recovery team with the goal of finding any remains of seven MIA soldiers from World War II and identifying them. The story of the extraction was featured on PBS, and her team eventually identified four of the seven missing soldiers.

“The entire experience was memorable, because I was able to get out of my shell after being a solitary graduate student,” Bunch said. “I got to see how a team works and gels together all while exploring different countries around the world.”

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Author: Anthony Arnone

Posted: August 05, 2022