Defense Intelligence Agency

Baltimore writer Wil Hylton goes deep to solve a decades-old mystery

On a military barge in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, half a world away from his home in Baltimore, Wil S. Hylton felt ghosts.

"I got on this barge thinking I was going to do a magazine piece," says Hylton, who was on an assignment from GQ. "And I spent this time on the barge just feeling the presence of death and unanswered questions all around me. I'm not a religious person, I'm not even a spiritual person, I'm a born-again atheist, but the sense of ghosts in that place-whatever ghosts may be in your mind-were there."

Hylton's first book, Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II (Riverhead), released this week,...