The Pentagon will exhume and identify remains from as many as 388 sailors and Marines who died aboard the Navy ship Oklahoma when it was hit by torpedoes during the Pearl Harbor attacks in Hawaii.
The service members’ remains have lain in graves marked "Unknown" in Hawaii since they were removed from the sunken battleship in the years after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack by Japan before the U.S. had entered World War II.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced it would use medical and dental records and family DNA samples to identify the remains. Evidence indicates that most -- but not all -- of the crew members can be identified, the Pentagon said.
“The secretary of Defense and I will work tirelessly to ensure your loved ones' remains will be recovered, identified, and returned to you as expeditiously as possible, and we will do so with dignity, respect and care,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said in a statement.
A total of 429 sailors and Marines died in the attack on the Oklahoma. In the years following the attack, 41 crew members were positively identified and buried.
The rest of the remains were ultimately buried as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. The bodies will be exhumed from there later this year and analyzed by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency's Hawaii laboratory.
The Navy and Marines began notifying next of kin Tuesday morning. The remains of service members who are identified will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors, the Pentagon said.
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