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Relatives of those killed in Pearl Harbor attack back new push to identify unknown remains

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 5:05 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, grave sites marked Unknown hold co-mingled remains of 85 sailors and Marines from the USS Arizona who were killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Teri Mann Whyatt thinks her uncle, William Edward Mann, may be one of them.

“If there was a remote chance that we could bring him home and make the decision for his final resting place then I would want to have that,” she said.

The Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency said it lacks sufficient medical and dental records and DNA samples from relatives to warrant disinterring the remains of the unknowns to try to identify them.

“We just don’t understand it,” said Randy Stratton.

He’s the son of Arizona survivor Donald Stratton and is at the forefront of a push to identify the USS Arizona unknowns. The Stratton family started a petition on Change.org that urges the DPAA to identify the remains and to use DNA testing ancestry sites use.

Stratton’s willing to coordinate the collection of DNA samples from relatives.

“We have two outside firms that said, ‘Hey, we could come in and do this. We’ll do it for free!’ They don’t have to worry about it,” he said.

Dozens of families of USS Arizona missing have joined the fight.

Ken Arnopole’s great uncle Thomas Augusta Free and his son William Thomas Free were both on the battleship when it was bombed by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941.

“Maybe one of them was on deck and is one of these people that was in the unknown graves,” Arnopole said.

Stratton said the DPAA has successfully identified co-mingled remains from other graves at Punchbowl, including the USS Oklahoma, that have led to positive IDs and proper military burials.

“That’s what we want. These guys have never got the honors,” he said.

Whyatt said the DPAA owes it to her uncle and the other sailors and Marines who served and died aboard the USS Arizona, and their families who have waited 80 years for closure.

“If only we could have one glimmer of a chance for that, my family would take that,” she said.

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