The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman from World War II have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Navy Ensign Joseph P. Hittorff, Jr., 25, of Collingswood, New Jersey, will be buried June 18 in South Kent, Connecticut. On Dec. 7, 1941, Hittorff was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in 429 casualties, including Hittorff.
From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries.
In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Hittorff.
In April 2015, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a policy memorandum directing the disinterment of unknowns associated with the USS Oklahoma. On June 15, 2015, DPAA personnel began exhuming the remains from the NMCP for analysis.
Bone samples were submitted for DNA testing to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL), Armed Forces Medical Examiner System, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Tests included mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which traces the maternal line, and autosomal DNA, which is individual specific.
To identify Hittorff’s remains, scientists from DPAA and AFDIL used mtDNA, which matched a sister; as well as circumstantial evidence and laboratory analysis, to include dental comparisons, which matched Hittorff’s records.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil or call (703) 699-1420.