Unknown No More
First four burials for USS Oklahoma former unknowns
Dozens of men killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor are one step closer to finally going home. The first four caskets of the USS Oklahoma unknowns have been laid to rest.
From June 1942 to May 1944, during salvage operations, the remaining service members' remains were removed from the ship and initially interred as unknowns, in Nuuanu and Halawa cemeteries in Hawaii. In 1947 all remains in those cemeteries were disinterred for attempted identification. Twenty-seven unknowns from the USS Oklahoma were proposed for identification based on dental comparisons, but all proposed identifications were disapproved.
By 1950, all unidentified remains associated with the ship were re-interred as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, commonly known as the Punchbowl.
In 2003, the DoD laboratory in Hawaii, disinterred one casket containing USS Oklahoma remains based on historical evidence provided by Ray Emory, a Pearl Harbor survivor. The evidence helped establish the identification of five servicemen. However, the casket contained the remains of up to 100 men who had not yet been identified.
Until recently, more than 60 headstones at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific have been marked by the word Unknown. However, one by one the Department of Defense is hoping to identify these men and properly lay them to rest.
The remains of the unaccounted for USS Oklahoma Sailors and Marines are now being exhumed. Upon disinterment, the remains are transferred to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) laboratory in Hawaii for examination. Analysis of all available evidence indicates that most USS Oklahoma crew members can be identified upon disinterment.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work approved the disinterment of unknowns associated with the USS Oklahoma.