HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - During the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Oklahoma was one of the first ships to sink. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps lost 429 officers and enlisted personnel, including 19-year-old Fireman 3rd Class Edwin Hopkins.
"He was a good sailor," Tom Gray said.
Gray is Hopkins' second cousin. He and his relatives insist they traced the sailor's remains to grave P 1003 in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.
"There was no closure because no one from the Navy ever called and said after the ship was raised in 1943 that his remains were recovered. We didn't find that out until 2008," Gray said by telephone from his home in Guilford, Conn.
The grave marker says the identities of the men co-mingled in the casket are unknown. But Gray said the family found a document that lists Hopkins' remains as being identified and moved.
"If you follow the numbers it goes from Halawa to Schofield to the Punchbowl," he said.
Gray wants the remains exhumed and returned so relatives can bury Hopkins in their private cemetery in New Hampshire.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sarah Flaherty said the plan is to keep the remains at Punchbowl.
"During any identification process, the Sailors and Marines of USS Oklahoma would be outside the sanctity of the grave for the third time following their heroic sacrifice at Pearl Harbor," she said.
"When we have the ability to and the science to be able to correct the situation, now we're pleading sanctity?" Gray argues. "I'm not buying this."
His family has written letters to the Secretary of the Navy and their congressional delegation.
"We want him returned home and buried with his family. We paid enough when we gave up one of our own. We paid in blood," he said.
Flaherty said the Army Secretary makes the final determination on disinterments
"Full DNA testing and accounting could take many years and likely leave many of the missing still unaccounted for," she said.
"This can be corrected," Gray insists. "I'm not asking them to go and search around North Hanoi, some place in the jungle. This man is here and we can fix it. That's all we're asking them to do."
Flaherty said if the Navy builds a permanent memorial for the USS Oklahoma, remains in graves marked unknown will be relocated to that site.