By Julia LeDoux, Radio.com
The DefensePOW/MIA Accounting Agency says the 300th service member killed while serving aboard the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, has been identified.
Marine Corps Pfc. John F. Middleswart, 19, was accounted for on Jan. 28. His identification comes as a result of the ongoing USS Oklahoma Project.
“When his identification came through, it was really exciting because I knew this was number 300,” said Carrie LeGarde, the USS Oklahoma Project lead in a release.
Hattie Johnson, the head of the Repatriation branch of the Marine Corps Casualty Office, notified Middleswart’s 60-year-old nephew that his uncle had been identified.
“He stated that his mother, he, and his brother provided DNA in 2009 to assist in the identification of his uncle if remains were recovered, although he was skeptical that an identification would happen in his lifetime,” she said. “His mother always hoped that her brother would be recovered and identified. She passed away in 2015 at 98 years old. The Marine Corps is very excited and looking forward to working with the family to bring Pfc. Middleswart home.”
In 2015, Department of Defense officials approved the phased disinterment of all the USS Oklahoma caskets from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, where 394 unidentified sailors and Marines had been buried as Unknowns since being consolidated there from other Hawaiian cemeteries in the 1950s. Since tnen, only six USS Oklahoma crewmen had been accounted for, leaving 388 left to identify.
On Nov. 10, 2015, the last caskets were removed from the cemetery due to a partnership between DPAA, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of the Navy. All of the USS Oklahoma remains were transferred to the Offutt lab.
While the most recent identification means that the project will soon end, LeGarde said her team isn’t finished yet. She expects a conservative estimate of 42 more identifications will be made but is pushing for more.
“I am very optimistic that we will hit 350,” she said. “We’re really shooting for that next milestone.”