Families are hoping advances in DNA testing will finally help identify remains of those killed in the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor that began America’s involvement in World War II. The remains of 388 Americans killed are to be exhumed for DNA testing.
Most of the crew on board the torpedoed USS Oklahoma could not be identified after Japan’s surprise attack – a pivotal moment which convinced the US to enter the war.
Their remains were interred at Hawaii’s National Memorial Cemetery but now the Pentagon plans to transfer them to a Defense Department lab on the island to hopefully bring closure to some families.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the government remained “committed to fulfilling its sacred obligation to achieve the fullest possible accounting for US personnel lost in past conflicts”.
“Recent advances in forensic science and technology, as well as family member assistance in providing genealogical information, have now made it possible to make individual identifications for many service members long-buried in graves marked ‘unknown,'” said Mr Work.
“While not all families will receive an individual identification, we will strive to provide resolution to as many families as possible.”
For the exhumation to happen, Government rules state there must be a chance of identifying at least 60% of the troops. Family members of the dead crew are set to provide samples to help the process.
The attack on the USS Oklahoma killed 429 people.
USS Oklahoma (BB-37), the only ship of the United States Navy to ever be named for the 46th state, was a World War I-era Nevada-class battleship and the second of two ships in her class. She and her sister, Nevada, were the first U.S. warships to use oil fuel instead of coal.
The Oklahoma, commissioned in 1916, served in World War I as a member of BatDiv 6, protecting Allied convoys on their way across the Atlantic. After the war, she served in both the United States Battle Fleet and Scouting Fleet. Oklahoma was modernized between 1927 and 1929. In 1936, she rescued American citizens and refugees from the Spanish Civil War. On returning to the West coast in August of the same year, Oklahoma spent the rest of her service in the Pacific.
On 7 December 1941, Oklahoma was sunk by several bombs and torpedoes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. A total of 429 crew died when she capsized in Battleship Row. In 1943 Oklahoma was righted and salvaged. However, unlike most of the other battleships that were recovered following Pearl Harbor, the Oklahoma was too damaged to return to duty. She was eventually stripped of her remaining armaments and superstructure before being sold for scrap in 1946. She sank in a storm while being towed from Oahu in Hawaii to a breakers yard in San Francisco Bay in 1947.