He’s been presumed dead since Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor and set offa massive explosion that sank his battleship, the USS Arizona, launching the U.S. into World War II.
Now, his niece is among some families of crew members who are demanding the U.S. military take advantage of advances in DNA technology to identify 85 sailors and Marines from the Arizona who were buried as unknowns. They say the military has disinterred and identified remains from other Pearl Harbor battleships and should do the same for their loved ones.
“These men matter and they served. They gave their lives for our country. And they deserve the same honor and respect as any other service member past, present and future,” Teri Mann Whyatt said.
The Arizona suffered more loss of life than any other ship at Pearl Harbor, with 1,177 dead. More than 900 went down with the ship and have remained entombed there ever since.
As with remains on other sunken ships, the Navy considers those aboard the Arizona to be in their final resting place. The families are not advocating for them to be removed and identified.
The issue is what to do with the 85 Arizona unknowns buried in a Hawaii cemetery. It emerged in February when the director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which is tasked with finding and identifying the remains of U.S. service members from past conflicts, was asked during a Facebook Live meeting when the agency would disinter them.
Kelly McKeague said his agency had spoken to the Navy about exhuming the Arizona unknowns and moving them to the ship without identifying them first. McKeague said it didn’t make “pragmatic sense” to identify them.
That outraged some families who feared the 85 remains would be placed on the sunken battleship without ever being identified.
The agency has since said it doesn’t plan to move the cemetery remains onto the ship. Rear Adm. Darius Banaji, the agency’s deputy director, said that was just a possibility discussed informally a few years ago.
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