USS Oklahoma Disaster Leaves Unidentified Bodies

The USS Oklahoma was ravaged by the Pearl Harbor assault that brought the United States into the Second World War. Many of the deceased aboard the ship at the time of its tragic capsizing were never identified. Now, the United States Navy has issued statements to surviving loved ones of the deceased that they do not with the bodies from the USS Oklahoma to undergo any further identification procedures.

This issue appears to be based on both morals and practicality.There are hundreds of bodies in the National Memorial Cemetery in Hawaii that would have to be exhumed and tested, which would be both costly and impractical. Since the disastrous events of Pearl Harbor struck the USS Oklahoma, many bodies have already been tested, and the Navy is beginning to see folly in the act of disturbing so many remains. While some might believe that the identification process is a way of more thoroughly honoring the dead, the Navy believes the proper way to honor them is to let them rest in peace.

Not only do they not wish to cease exhumation of the bodies already at rest, they also wish to bury those which are currently not in a grave. The Navy’s stance on this is not felt by all. The order to continue testing the remains from the USS Oklahoma did not come from the Navy in the first place. It came from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), whose job revolves around identifying such corpses.

Some believe this is more of a public relations move on the part of JPAC than it is an attempt to honor those who were sacrificed at Pearl Harbor. While not necessarily related to the tragedy of the USS Oklahoma in any direct way, JPAC has been under fire lately for its low rate of identified corpses. Their methods have been questioned by the loved ones of fallen soldiers as well as by the government, and ordering more identification procedures may help to clear their bad reputation, the Stars and Stripes reports.

The Navy is not confident that continuing work on remains from the USS Oklahoma will yield any results, as further testing would constitute the third time such tests have been performed. Regarding the currently unearthed remains they intend to rebury, the Navy is not aiming to hold their burial ceremony for another two years or so, which means the decision is certainly not yet final. There is no telling if or when the bodies from the USS Oklahoma will ever be identified.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE