Honolulu: The Pentagon said today it would exhume and try to identify the remains of nearly 400 sailors and Marines killed when the USS Oklahoma sank in the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The ship capsized after being hit by nine torpedoes during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack. Altogether, 429 sailors and Marines onboard were killed. Only 35 were identified in the years immediately after.
Hundreds were buried as unknowns at cemeteries in Hawaii. In 1950, they were reburied as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific inside a volcanic crater in Honolulu.
The military is acting now, more than 70 years after the men died, because advances in forensic science and technology as well as genealogical help from family members have made it possible to identify more remains, said Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency spokeswoman.
Officials plan to begin the work in three to six weeks, Morgan said. They aim to identify the remains of up to 388 servicemen within five years.
In 2003, the military disinterred one casket at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific based on information provided by Ray Emory, a Pearl Harbor survivor who has spent years doggedly scouring documents.
Many remains were comingled when buried, and the military was able to identify five servicemen from that casket. But the coffin also contained the remains of up to 100 others who haven’t been identified.
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