- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - A senior Defense Department official visited Honolulu’s national cemetery over the weekend as the Pentagon considers whether to exhume nearly 400 USS Oklahoma crew members buried there as unknowns.

Many families of Oklahoma sailors and Marines killed in the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, want their relatives identified. The military now has the scientific capability to identify many of the remains.

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific on Sunday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (https://bit.ly/1GdUoaH ).

Wormuth wanted to get a sense of the unknowns buried at the cemetery, said Navy Rear Adm. Michael Franken, the interim director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

“Obviously, it’s a prologue to what we anticipate will be a yea-or-nay disinterment decision that Deputy Secretary of Defense (Robert) Work will make shortly,” Franken said. A decision is expected within two weeks.

Officials with the agency - which investigates, recovers and identifies missing American war dead - recently used words such as “favorable” and “optimistic” to describe the expected outcome of the Oklahoma exhumation review involving about 388 crew members.

Franken said “significant emotion” is involved with family members.

Some believe the Oklahoma crew members should remain with fallen shipmates in the commingled graves marked with the ship’s name and the word “unknown.”

Franken said he’s heard that argument at the Pentagon. He has turned the question around to ask if that person had an uncle or other relative buried as an unknown, would he or she want the deceased family member to remain that way or instead be buried according to the wishes of a spouse?

“And they say, ‘Yeah, I understand,’” Franken said Monday while in Hawaii.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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