Close to 400 sailors and Marines buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific are listed as unknowns.
Now, a move is underway to identify their remains.
The remains are from the crew of the battleship USS Oklahoma. They died after their ship sank during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
A memorial to the battleship stands where the ship was docked during that battle on Dec. 7, 1941, the target of bombs and torpedoes.
“As a result of the capsizing, they lost 429 crew members,” said Jim Newman, a Navy historian. “Most of the crew members were killed when it capsized, not when it was hit by torpedoes.”
At Punchbowl, the markers bear the names of the fallen, but for many of the crew of the Oklahoma, their identities are unknown. As many as 22 remains share the same grave site.
There are 388 sailors and Marines with the Oklahoma who are listed as unknown at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. They join thousands of unknowns buried there, including some who also perished during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Now officials with the the Pentagon’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency is working on a new policy to recover and identify remains of the unknown.
They will rely on extensive research on family history, along with obtaining medical and dental records, and DNA technology.
KHON2 was also told the Pentagon will not stop with the Oklahoma.
“We’re going to start with the USS Oklahoma, but we will also be looking at other unknown graves to determine if they are eligible for disinterment in the future,” said Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan.
The remains of the unknowns at Punchbowl will be exhumed later this year. Upon disinterment, the remains will be transferred to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency laboratory in Hawaii for examination.
The Pentagon says analysis of all available evidence indicates that most USS Oklahoma crew members can be identified upon disinterment.