Sailors Lost From USS Oklahoma To Be Identified

In a hunt to find the lost sailors of the USS Oklahoma after it sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor, the unidentified remains of some 400 sailors will be exhumed and tested, the Defense Department announced on Tuesday. The Pentagon explained that it will exhume 61 caskets buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii, which carry the remains of 388 unidentified sailors killed during the Japanese attack, and perform DNA testing on the bodies in the hope of giving families of the fallen USS Oklahoma sailors closure.

The decision is in complete contrast to the Defense Department’s position not more than a year ago. Families of the lost sailors asked the Navy to identify the remains, but they denied the request, explaining that exhuming and DNA testing the remains would likely take years and provide unsatisfactory results. On Tuesday, however, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work made a statement that advances in DNA testing technology, along with the help of families providing genealogical information, has given the Navy the means to quickly and efficiently identify the sailors.

Sailors Lost From USS Oklahoma To Be Identified - Clapway

Work goes on to say that the Defense Department has collected and analyzed DNA from 84 percent of the family members of lost sailors from the USS Oklahoma, and gathered 90 percent of medical and dental records of the sailors themselves. With these, they can make matches with the exhumed bodies.

The Defense Department believes most of the USS Oklahoma’s crew is buried in the 61 caskets, so the effort will overall be a success. The process will take about five years. Work has also outlined a general policy for identifying remains from any permanent U.S. military cemetery. A group of remains needs a 60 percent chance of identification, and for individual remains, a 50 percent chance. The policy does not extend to a ship that met a similar fate, the USS Arizona, which sank in Pearl Harbor killing 1,177 crew members. The Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor will not be effected.

The USS Oklahoma was fatally damaged by Japanese torpedoes during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. In all 429 sailors and marines were killed.

In the spirit the USS Oklahoma and the memorial of Pearl Harbor, watch this short about the discovery of 31 undeveloped rolls of film from World War II soldiers: