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DNA Testing in Pearl Harbor

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The US military have decided to exhume military remains of those killed in the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941 in order that they can be identified. They have said they will be using forensic techniques including , the Pentagon has announced. There are 388 bodies which are unidentified and were killed in the 1941 surprise attack by the Japanese; the decision is an unprecedented attempt to identify troops with the use of DNA testing.

The DNA testing will focus on the marines from the ship USS Oklahoma who have never been identified.It is more than seven decades since the surprise attack and the ship sank when it was hit by Japanese torpedoes which killed 429 sailors and marines. Most of the crew could not be identified and were eventually buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

The Pentagon explained how the remains are to be disinterred and taken to the Defense department laboratory in Hawaii. Recent advances in forensic science and technology as well as family member assistance in providing genealogical information, have now made it possible to make individual identifications for many service members long – buried graves marked ‘unknown’,” deputy defense secretary Robert Work said. The important thing is that those troops who are positively identified will be given a full military honors burial. “We will strive to provide resolution to as many families as possible”, Work added.

The approval of a new policy that could open the way to exhuming more unidentified troops at other cemeteries has been groundbreaking in that previous attempts to disinter and identify have been denied. To permit exhuming remains there must be evidence that at least 60% of the troops can be individually identified and Pentagon forensic experts will need to collect relevant family reference samples for comparison with the DNA taken from the remains and also medical and dental records.

In the years following the attack, 35 crew members were identified and buried. The remaining crew’s remains were removed from the ship and buried as ‘unknowns’ across cemeteries in Hawaii.

The announcement shows that the US is serious about trying to identify missing soldiers from conflicts dating back to the Second World War.

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