Pentagon to exhume remains of Pearl Harbor victims

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388 Unidentified Pearl Harbor Victims to Be Exhumed, ID'd

The Department of Defense announced plans Tuesday to exhume the remains of nearly 400 unidentified sailors and Marines who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Of 429 service members who were killed when the Japanese attacked the USS Oklahoma in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, the remains of up to 388 remained unaccounted over the years, mostly buried in "unknown" graves in Hawaiian cemeteries.

Decades later, the Department of Defense believes it has the necessary technology to accurately identify many of the remaining unknown sailors and Marines who died in the attack.

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Pentagon to exhume remains of Pearl Harbor victims
FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2012 file photo, a gravestone identifying the resting place of 7 unknowns from the USS Oklahoma is shown at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. The Pentagon says it will disinter and try to identify the remains of up to 388 unaccounted for sailors and Marines killed when the USS Oklahoma sank in the 1941 Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy, File)
FILE - In this file image provided by the U.S. Navy, crewmen of the USS Nevada still fight flames on the battleship, battered in the Japanese aerial attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. It was hit with at least six Japanese bombs and a torpedo that opened a 45-by-35 foot gash in the side of the ship. It was intentionally run aground, but its crew continued to fight and was the first to shoot down a Japanese aircraft. At the end of the battle, 50 Nevada crew members died and 140 were wounded. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, file)
Torpedoed and bombed by the Japanese, the battleship USS West Virginia begins to sink after suffering heavy damage, center, while the USS Maryland, left, is still afloat in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941 during World War II. The capsized USS Oklahoma is at right. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: Delton E. Walling is given an anchor pin by Chief Petty Officer Rex Parmelee before the start of a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on the island of Oahu at the Pacific National Monument on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: Pearl Harbor survivor Delton E. Walling (center) speaks with Chief Petty Officer Rex Parmelee before the start of a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on the island of Oahu at the Pacific National Monument on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: The U.S.S. Chung-Hoon passes the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on the island of Oahu at the Pacific National Monument on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: The U.S.S. Chung-Hoon performs a pass in review during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on the island of Oahu at the Pacific National Monument on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: Kathryn Holt kisses U.S.S. Arizona survivor Louis Conter on his cheek before the start of a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on the island of Oahu at the Pacific National Monument on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: A color guard is seen during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on the island of Oahu at the Pacific National Monument on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: U.S.S. Arizona survivor Louis Conter during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: U.S.S. Arizona survivor John Anderson is seen during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: A tugboat is seen during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: Members of the different branches of the military form a corridor for the walk of honor during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: Echo taps is played during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: U.S.S. Arizona survivors John Anderson and Donald Stratton stand in front of the remembrance wall in the shrine room of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on the island of Oahu at the Pacific National Monument on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: U.S.S. Arizona survivor Louis Conter salutes the remembrance wall of the U.S.S. Arizona during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: U.S.S. Arizona survivor John Anderson salutes the remembrance wall of the U.S.S. Arizona shrine room during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: A pair of F-22 Raptors fly overhead during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on the island of Oahu at the Pacific National Monument on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: U.S.S. Arizona survivor Lauren Bruner during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: U.S.S. Arizona survivor Don Stratton stands in front of the U.S.S. Arizona remembrance wall in the shrine room during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on the island of Oahu at the Pacific National Monument on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: U.S.S. Arizona survivor Donald Stratton stands in front of the remembrance wall in the shrine room the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on the island of Oahu at the Pacific National Monument on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: U.S.S. Arizona survivors Donald Stratton, Louis Conter, John Anderson, and Lauren Bruner, talk with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in the shrine room of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on the island of Oahu at the Pacific National Monument on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: National Park Service Park Ranger Christopher Chang rings the bell of the U.S.S. Arizona during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: U.S.S. Arizona survivor Louis Conter sits with other Pearl Harbor Survivors before the start of a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on the island of Oahu at the Pacific National Monument on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: Pearl Harbor survivors are saluted while participating in the honor walk during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII - DECEMBER 07: U.S.S. Arizona survivor Louis Conter and other Pearl Harbor survivors salute the U.S.S. Chung-Hoon as it performs a pass in review during a memorial service for the 73rd anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on the island of Oahu at the Pacific National Monument on December 07, 2014 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7, 1941 a surprise military attack was conducted by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the U.S. Pacific Fleet being moored in Pearl Harbor, marking the entry of the U.S. in World War II. More than 2,400 people were killed and thousands wounded, with dozens of Navy vessels either sunk or destroyed. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
Pearl Harbor survivors, from left, Roland Nee, of Rush Springs, Okla., Arles Cole of Tulsa, Okla., and Paul Goodyear of Casa Grande, Ariz., listen somberly as Ed Vezey, not in photo, talks in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2007, during a ceremony honoring the 429 crew members of the USS Oklahoma who lost their lives in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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"The secretary of defense and I will work tirelessly to ensure your loved one's remains will be recovered, identified, and returned to you as expeditiously as possible, and we will do so with dignity, respect and care," Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said in a statement. "While not all families will receive an individual identification, we will strive to provide resolution to as many families as possible."

A forensic anthropologist from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that because of how the remains were originally sorted, each casket contains the bones of dozens of service members. Those complications mean it may take officials years to identify all the remains.

Anyone who is positively identified will receive a new burial with full military honors.

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