There are three graves in Section P at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. Grave 0989, 1001 and 1003 are all marked as unknown.
Pearl Harbor survivor and historian Ray Emory believes he knows the names of the 21 sailors whose remains are in the graves. He came to that conclusion by comparing two lists. "One list had more names than the other," he said.
Emory collected, cross-checked and collated documents from military and government records.
"Every one of those graves has got a story to tell, really. And it's sad what they did as far as grave markers," he said.
Emory requested and received stacks of paperwork. He built a paper trail of sailors listed as missing from the USS Oklahoma when it sank on Dec. 7, 1941. He believes they are the 21 buried in five caskets in the three graves. "All those families were told the bodies were never recovered to start with," he said.
On Thursday, 15 U. S. Senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging him to order the JPAC Central Identification Laboratory to exhume the caskets and identify the remains.
Relatives of Fireman Third Class Edwin Hopkins think his remains are in one of those graves. "We're going to wait and see what the Secretary of Defense does with this. And if they want to go ahead and complete this project, then I can't think of anything better," said Hopkin's cousin Tom Gray.
Over the years Emory has contacted the families of the 21 men he has researched. Some sent him photographs and clippings so he can put faces to facts. Asked how confident he is that he is right, Emory doesn't hesitate. "A thousand percent. No doubt," he said.
Emory built a file for each one of the 21 sailors. To him they are names not just numbers, and they are known by more than a word on a grave marker.