DNA Technology Aids in Identifying Pearl Harbor Victims

80 years after Pearl Harbor, new DNA technology is aiding historians and geneticists to identify 90% of the 429 victims of the USS Oklahoma and return them to their bodies to their proper resting places.

After the USS Oklahoma was torpedoed by the Japanese bombers, the 429 victims were placed in mass unmarked graves. There was no way to identify them, and no way to return them home to grieving families. These bodies have been untouched for almost 80 years.

But then in 2015, theĀ Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency created a program to identify the unmarked bodies and return them to their families. So far, the team has been able to identify 361 of the crewman who gave their lives for freedom that day.

It has been a hard-fought challenge for many reasons. Primarily, maternal mitochondrial DNA is used, but many of the crewmen shared ancestral backgrounds. But now, new DNA technology enables geneticists to use paternal DNA, as well. This has been the biggest factor in properly identifying the crewmen.

Scientists also used dental records and examined the physical remains for other genetic markers.

The DPMAA team has identified everyone they can at this time. Although 33 men remain to be identified, they hope that genetic breakthroughs in the future will enable each family to have closure.

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