Thursday, December 14, 2017
For Pearl Harbor Unknowns, A Final Rest-- Part 2: The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
The military buried the remains of the unidentified in group graves in two cemeteries in Hawaii. In 1947 the remains were exhumed and brought to a military lab on the islands to be identified.
But that effort fizzled after disputes arose over how to conclusively identify the remains. Disagreement also existed over whether individual remains could be segregated from group graves with scientific certainty. The two groups of unknown were united for reburial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl).
The situation changed in 2003 when a Pearl Harbor survivor who was researching buried unknown sailors and Marines persuaded the military lab in Hawaii to exhume the remains of an ensign. That exhumation revealed that approximately 100 servicemen's remains in the same casket.
In 2012 the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command proposed a full disinterment, which led to a Defense Department directive to begin the exhumations in June 2015 and to identify each of the 388 remains of the unknown servicemen.