The U.S. Department of Defense announced this week that the bodies of 388 members of the U.S. Navy and Marines would be exhumed and identified.
Sen. Christopher Murphy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, among a bipartisan group of 15 senators, had been pushing for the exhumation for a year. Among the 388 bodies that have yet to be conclusively identified — Marines and sailors who lost their lives aboard the USS Oklahoma during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941 — two were Connecticut residents.
“This is fantastic news and a huge step forward in bringing comfort and closure to not only two families in Connecticut, but also to hundreds of other families across the United States,” Murphy said. “For nearly 70 years, these families never knew the final resting place of their loved ones. These heroes — who made the ultimate sacrifice — died protecting our great nation and will finally be laid to rest, like they deserve, in a place of their families’ choosing.”
The 429 American servicemen were aboard the USS Oklahoma when it was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. The ship sank after being struck by several torpedoes. Following the attack, 35 of those killed were positively identified and buried. Five more were identified in the 2003, according to a release issued by the Department of Defense.
Several attempts at identification have been made in the years since the attack, using dental records. The results from those attempts were ultimately inconclusive and the bodies were reinterred.
This latest identification attempt will employ DNA testing, according to the DOD, though Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said efforts might not be completely conclusive.
“While not all families will receive an individual identification, we will strive to provide resolution to as many families as possible,” he said.
Nonetheless, Blumenthal said the effort was important, and a matter of “honor.”
“I am extremely pleased and grateful that the Department of Defense responded positively to this request,” he said. “It is a triumph for honor and a major step toward closure.”