2015     Navy opposes exhumations



Exhumation of unknown sailors and marines begins


  • The Navy has notified family members of sailors who died aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor that it opposes any further testing to identify the remains. In a letter dated May 21, Russell Beland, deputy assistant secretary for military manpower and personnel, told families the Navy prefers not to disturb the commingled remains of 330 unidentified sailors buried in multiple graves at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, informally known as the Punchbowl Cemetery, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Stars and Stripes.

  • Remains of service members killed aboard the battleship Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, will be exhumed from their graves in an attempt to identify the remains and return them to families for burial. The decision was announced April 14 after a decade of study and preliminary work by the Defense Department, which led to the decision that identification of sailors and Marines was feasible and a likely outcome if the bodies were disinterred and analyzed. Currently, 388 of the Oklahoma's crew remain unaccounted for after the surprise Japanese attack that drew the United States into World War II. According to a memo signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work on April 14, the remains are commingled and currently rest "in 61 caskets at 45 grave sites" at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, located in what's known as the "Punch Bowl," an extinct volcano that overlooks Honolulu and Pearl Harbor.