A Marine's Mysterious Death

Why was a lance corporal left behind in the desert?

Aug. 30, 1988. The searing Mojave Desert. About 2,400 U.S. Marines conduct night maneuvers near the Twentynine Palms Base in California. Among them is Jason Rother, a 19-year-old lance corporal shipped in from North Carolina's Camp Lejeune for a special training exercise. While most of the Marines directing convoys are posted around the desert in pairs, Rother, inexplicably, is sent out to guide troop movements without an assigned buddy.

Sept. 1. Almost two days after Rother went into the desert, he is reported missing. The Marine Corps launches a 1,758-man search, complete with helicopters and jeeps equipped with infrared thermal imaging...

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