WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called on the U.S. Department of Defense to act on its commitment to help recover the bodies of 22 men who lost their lives aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. In previous correspondence, the Department committed to review the case and help families of those lost in the attack bring their loved ones home for burial in their community, or a marked grave in Hawaii. It has been over 8 months since the initial request and the Department has still failed to act.
All 22 men were killed, along with 408 other sailors, when the U.S.S. Oklahoma was torpedoed during the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1943, when the Oklahoma was salvaged and raised, the remains of the sailors classified as “unknown” were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. For nearly 70 years, the family members of these men never knew the final resting place of their loved ones.
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Secretary Hagel:
I am writing to follow up on the March 6th letter signed by me and 14 of my Senate colleagues regarding the remains of the service members who lost their lives on the USS Oklahoma on December 7th, 1941. It has been 8 months and we have received no information from your office regarding the return of their remains, which is required for their proper burials.
In his April 9, 2014 reply, Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Lumpkin made assurances that he had “discussed this matter” with you and “directed a review of the accounting of service members killed while serving on the Oklahoma.” I would like to receive an update on the status of this review and any plans for the disinterment of the unknowns from the USS Oklahoma as soon as possible.
Furthermore, we have heard from confused and concerned constituents that the Navy is considering plans to bury these deceased service members in a mass grave on Ford Island. The prospect of such a plan is troubling and disconcerting; why would the Navy go through the exercise of asking the families if they want their loved ones disinterred and identified only to bury them together on Ford Island? The brave men who died protecting our great nation at Pearl Harbor deserve a final resting place of their families’ choosing. I reiterate my request that their remains be released to their family so that they may be interred according to their wishes.
Please update me with any developments in this matter. Thank you for your service to this country.
Christopher S. Murphy
United States Senator