Pearl Harbor Remembrance – WWII USS Oklahoma Remains Identified

By Faye Higbee

On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was the scene of massive carnage, as the Japanese attacked America’s warships docked at the Naval base. We are all familiar with the loss of the USS Arizona, which lies at the bottom of the harbor. But lesser known is the USS Oklahoma, which lost 429 souls when it capsized during the attack. Hope now exists for the remains of those men to be identified and repatriated.

Screenshot from PBS special on the USS Oklahoma (2013)

Only 35 men were identified at the time, just after the USS Oklahoma disaster.  But with new technology now available, the US Military disinterred 388 remains in 2015 which had been buried at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu (the “Punchbowl”) in 46 plots.

The remains of US Sailors and US Marine personnel were mixed together in the plots since they could not be identified then. But with the ability to compare dental records and DNA, now several remains have been sent back to their homes.

The investigation is being conducted by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. According to the Marine Corps Times,

“The agency has said it expects to identify about 80 percent of the battleship’s missing crew members by 2020.

The most recent identification came last week, the agency said in a news release. The family hasn’t been notified yet, however, so his name hasn’t been released.

Many of those identified have been buried in their hometowns. Others were reinterred at the National Memorial Cemetery in the Pacific, which is located in an extinct volcanic crater in Honolulu.

One reburial is planned for next week: Navy Radioman 3rd Class Howard W. Bean of Everett, Massachusetts, will be buried Wednesday in Arlington National Cemetery. Bean was 27 when he was killed.”

At least 5,000 samples have been sent to a military DNA lab to be identified.

National Cemetery of the Pacific in early Spring – photo by DF Higbee

The National Cemetery of the Pacific is the final resting place of over 13,000 Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines who died in WWII. The local name of the cemetery is “Puowaina,” or the “Hill of Sacrifice.”  The Punchbowl, as it’s colloquially known, was formed 75,000 to 100,000 years ago, when “a crater resulted from the ejection of hot lava through cracks in the old coral reefs which, at the time, extended to the foot of the Koolau Mountain Range.” National Cemetery of the Pacific

Featured photo of the National Cemetery of the Pacific by DF Higbee