The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced Dec. 6 it has identified 250 unaccounted-for service members from the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.
The identifications have come from ongoing projects to identify Pearl Harbor Unknowns from the USS Oklahoma, USS West Virginia, and USS California.
All of the service members had been buried as Unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, called the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.
The USS Oklahoma Project is the first, largest, and most successful of the Pearl Harbor projects.
The first disinterment happened in 2003 after an independent researcher contacted the agency. Five service members were identified; however, DNA testing indicated that additional service members were present and further analyses were necessary to continue identification efforts. An additional one-casket disinterment and identification was made in 2007.
The full disinterment of the remaining USS Oklahoma Unknowns took place in 2015. In the four years since, 236 more identifications have been made, and work is on-going to identify the remaining 152.
The project to identify the 35 Unknowns from the USS West Virginia began in mid-2017. To date, eight have been identified.
The USS California Project is the most recent, beginning in 2018 and while none have yet been identified, 25 have been exhumed and are currently undergoing scientific analysis.
DPAA has partnered with the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System-Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFMES-AFDIL) to identify all of the unaccounted-for service members. The lab takes DNA samples from the remains and compares them with DNA family references samples. This, combined with dental and anthropological analysis from DPAA labs in Hawaii and Nebraska, makes identification possible.
These projects would not be possible without the additional partnership of the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Navy POW/MIA Branch.
Dec. 7, 2019, marks the 78th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which was the catalyst for the U.S. entry into World War II.