OMAHA, Neb. — The remains of Nebraska and Iowa sailors who were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor 79 years ago will get to return home soon thanks to the work of experts at Offutt Air Force Base.
It’s part of a five-year effort to identify Navy sailors and Marines who went missing while serving on the USS Oklahoma, a battleship that capsized during the attacks. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency is working to identify remains by using DNA technology and other modern methods, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
In 2015, the accounting agency disinterred 61 caskets at the National Military Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu that contained unidentified remains from the Oklahoma. The caskets were brought to an Offutt laboratory, which had plenty of space to spread out the more than 13,000 bones they contained.
The agency’s historians and forensic anthropologists had hoped to identify 315, or 80 percent, of the missing men by the end of 2020. With weeks to go, they have identified 281 of them.
Only 35 of the 429 sailors and Marines who died on the ship were identified during the war. The remains of the others were were buried in the graves of the unknown. Twenty-three of the sailors who died had spent some or all of their youth in Nebraska or western Iowa.