US & Canada

US to exhume remains of Pearl Harbor dead for identification

Salvage crew aboard USS Oklahoma, 1942 Image copyright Hulton Archive
Image caption Salvage crews managed to retrieve many of the remains from the USS Oklahoma

The remains of nearly 400 US servicemen killed at Pearl Harbor are to be exhumed so they may be identified and given individual burials, the US says.

The sailors and Marines were aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma when it was struck by Japanese torpedoes in 1941.

Their remains were buried together in Hawaii. The identification effort will use advances in forensic and DNA testing, US defence officials said.

Japan's attack on the US base at Pearl Harbor drew the US into World War Two.

The Oklahoma was one of several warships targeted by Japanese submarines and aircraft in the surprise assault on 7 December 1941. More than 2,400 people were killed.

US department of defence officials said the identification effort would be aided by advances in forensic science and technology, as well as by genealogical help from family members.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Survivors of the attack return to a new memorial in Hawaii

"While not all families will receive an individual identification, we will strive to provide resolution to as many families as possible," Deputy Secretary of Defence Robert Work said in a statement.

Only the remains of 35 of the 429 sailors and Marines killed aboard the USS Oklahoma have been identified so far.

The rest of the remains - retrieved during salvage operations from 1942 to 1944 - have been buried in caskets, marked as "unknown", at a national cemetery in Hawaii.

Tom Gray told the Associated Press news agency that his family had waited more than 70 years to give a proper burial to the remains of his cousin, Edwin Hopkins, who was killed aboard the Oklahoma.

While it was an honour for his cousin to have been buried at a national cemetery, he said: "I also think a boy gives up his life at 19 years old and ends up in a comingled grave marked as 'unknown' isn't proper."

Image copyright Hulton Archive
Image caption The Pearl Harbor attack drew the US into World War Two

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