HONOLULU — The military on Monday exhumed more caskets containing the unidentified remains of USS Oklahoma crew members killed in the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The coffins were dug up at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, where they have rested for decades. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said in April that it would disinter up to 388 Oklahoma servicemen to account for sailors and Marines still classified as missing.
The cemetery and the military allowed the media to observe a ceremony afterward when flags were draped over the coffins.
The Oklahoma identification project involves disinterring 61 caskets at 45 grave sites at the Honolulu cemetery commonly known as Punchbowl. More than a dozen caskets have already been exhumed.
The Oklahoma capsized after being hit by torpedoes during the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack. Altogether, 429 sailors and Marines on board were killed. Only 35 were identified in the years immediately after.
Hundreds were buried as unknowns at cemeteries in Hawaii. In 1950, they were reburied as unknowns at the Punchbowl.
The military is acting now, more than 70 years after the men died, because advances in forensic science and technology as well as genealogical help from family members have made it possible to identify more remains.
The identification work will be conducted at Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency laboratories in Hawaii and Nebraska. They will also be done at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
The agency expects to identify about 80 percent of Oklahoma crew members now considered missing. It expects the work will take about five years.