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Modern advances in forensic science made it possible to identify the remains of five "unknown" soldiers killed on the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor almost 75 years ago.
The remains were disinterred last year in an initiative that exhumed the remains of some 388 service members from 45 graves at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as Punchbowl, according to a release on the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s (AADP) website.
Dental identifications were to be performed in Hawaii shortly after the bodies were disinterred, according to the release. The post-cranial remains were then sorted and processed at a lab in Omaha, where forensic scientists used anthropological and DNA analysis to help with the identification. DNA samples provided by family members were also used in the process.
The agency hopes to identify around 80 percent of the unknown soldiers associated with the USS Oklahoma within the next five years. The remains that cannot be identified will likely be reburied in a known group burial at Arlington National Cemetery, the AADP said.
The men identified are: Chief Petty Officer Albert E. Hayden, U.S. Navy; Ensign Lewis. S Stockdale U.S. Navy Reserve; Seaman 2nd Class Dale F. Pearce, U.S. Navy; Petty Officer 1st Class Vernon T. Luke, U.S. Navy Reserve; and, Chief Petty Officer Duff Gordon, U.S. Navy Reserve.
The agency began identifying the fallen servicemen after a Pearl Harbor survivor used National Archive files to get officials to unearth the remains of an Oklahoma sailor in 2003, according to the Washington Post. Once those remains were correctly identified, a second casket was dug up and those remains were also identified.
This initiative started in the summer of 2015, and disinterred 61 caskets from 45 graves, according to the AADP release.
The Oklahoma sank after being hit with Japanese torpedoes, and then capsizing, killing 429 sailors and Marines on board. Many men were able to jump from the sinking ship, but many others were trapped inside, according to historical reports. The bodies were then pulled from the oily waters, and buried in two gravesites specifically for unknown soldiers.
The Oklahoma had about 1,300 service men on board. Only 35 were identified in the years immediately after, according to the AP.