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First USS Oklahoma remains exhumed

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Rescue crews work on the upturned hull of the 29,000 ton battleship USS Oklahoma December 8, 1941. The ship capsized after being blasted by Japanese warplanes December 7, 1941. Holes were burned through the hull to permit the rescue of some of the men trapped below. Credit: Library of Congress Source: US Navy

HONOLULU, Hawaii — The Defense Department announced in April that the remains of up to nearly 400 unaccounted for service members tied to the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor will be exhumed.

That process began on Monday.

“This was the first set of remains from the USS Oklahoma to be disinterred,” said Jim Horton, the director of the Punchbowl cemetery.

Disinterment ceremonies were held when the bones of Korean War veterans were exhumed for identification. Now, hundreds who served on USS Oklahoma during World War II may also be identified.

The attack happened at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. But many bodies weren’t removed until months later, making it difficult to positively identify the servicemen.

“We will take care of disinterring 65 caskets in 41 grave sites. That is approximately 388 sets of remains,” said Horton.

As each set of remains is removed, special ceremonies will be held at the cemetery.

“We will have full military detail. The coffins are draped with the American flag when they are removed and they are given full military transfer,” added Horton.

The remains will face months of DNA and forensic work, but those who suffered a loss in Pearl Harbor are one step closer to peace.


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