Project to identify USS Oklahoma unknowns enters new phase

Project to identify USS Oklahoma unknowns enters new phase
Published: Nov. 9, 2015 at 8:51 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2015 at 10:00 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The USS Oklahoma capsized in the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, and 388 crew members are still unaccounted for.

Now, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency is on a mission to identify as many of them as possible.

The agency in June began digging up the remains of USS Oklahoma sailors and Marines from a veterans cemetery in Honolulu where they were buried as unknowns. Within five years, officials expect to identify about 80 percent of the Oklahoma crew members now considered missing.

On Monday, officials exhumed the last four of 61 caskets containing the Oklahoma unknowns.

And so far, the military has identified the remains of seven crew members missing since the USS Oklahoma

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency spokeswoman Maj. Natasha Waggoner said Monday that the military will release the servicemen's names once their families have been notified.

While the effort started in June, the idea for the mission began in 2003, when a single casket was exhumed.

Investigators expected to find the remains of five individuals.

"The analyses that were done from that one casket, thought to contain five individuals, actually contained over 100 individuals in that one casket," said Dr. Debra Prince Zinni, of the POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

With all the unidentified remains now having received a "dignified transfer," work will begin to identify as many of them as possible. The Department of Defense plans to use every tool at its disposal to do so.

Those tools "include dental analyses, skeletal analyses and DNA testing--both mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA testing," Zinni said.

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