Pentagon says some 9/11 remains in landfill

Smoke comes out from the west wing of the Pentagon building September 11, 2001 in Arlington, Va.
Smoke comes out from the west wing of the Pentagon building September 11, 2001 in Arlington, Va., after a plane crashed into the building and set off a huge explosion.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Pentagon revealed Tuesday that the partial remains of several 9/11 victims were incinerated by a military contractor and sent to a landfill.

The number of victims involved was unclear according to a Pentagon report, but it involved some of those killed when a terrorist-hijacked airplane struck the Pentagon, killing 184, and another crashed in Shanksville, Pa., killing 40, in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

CBS correspondent Wyatt Andrew reports it's the first admission that trace remains of some 9/11 victims have been literally thrown away, just like some of the nation's fallen military heroes.

Pentagon officials, including Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, promised to review the 9/11 procedures - but were clearly surprised.

"This is new information to me," Donley said. "We haven't had a chance to fully absorb all the findings."

The Air Force was trying to discuss the larger report on how it would improve its mortuary in Dover, Delaware.

Air Force covered up botched handling of remains
Air Force morgue lost body parts, officials say

It admitted that it had put cremated parts of 274 fallen service members into landfills and avoided telling the families.

When asked who was responsible, Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz said, "You're looking at him. Me. I'm responsible."

The Air Force was clear today, that things have to improve. Secretary Donley said it was their duty  "to provide reverence, dignity, honor, and respect to the fallen and the care, service and support owed to the families."

In New York, the medical examiner's office has spent the last 10 years sifting through debris, trying to honor even the smallest traces of those killed.

The Pentagon said it stopped using landfills in 2008, and today it takes remains that will never be identified - out to sea.

  • Wyatt Andrews
    Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.