(Reuters) - The remains of as many as 388 “unknown” U.S. military members who died when the USS Oklahoma was sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will be exhumed in Hawaii in an effort to identify them, the Department of Defense said on Tuesday.
The remains of the sailors and Marines will be taken from a cemetery in Hawaii to a laboratory where they will be analyzed using modern forensic tools and techniques, including DNA testing, the Pentagon said in a statement.
Service members who are identified will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
“While not all families will receive an individual identification, we will strive to provide resolution to as many families as possible,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said in the statement.
There has been a series of identification efforts in the decades since the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, which took 2,403 lives and drew the United States into World War Two.
The Oklahoma sank when it was hit by torpedoes during the assault, the Pentagon said. A total of 429 sailors and Marines were killed.
In the years immediately following the attack, 35 crew members were identified and buried. During salvage operations from 1942 to 1944, the remaining service members’ remains were removed from the ship and interred as “unknowns” in cemeteries in Hawaii.
In 1947, remains in those cemeteries were disinterred, but requests to attempt to identify them based on dental records were disapproved.
By 1950, all unidentified remains from the USS Oklahoma were reinterred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, in Hawaii, the department said. The new effort aims to disinter 61 caskets at 45 gravesites.
The Defense Department laboratory in Hawaii disinterred one casket in 2003 and was able to identify five servicemen based on historical evidence provided by a Pearl Harbor survivor.
Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney