Eighty years ago today, America was ushered into World War II when it was attacked in the early morning hours at Pearl Harbor. By the time the dust settled, more than 2,400 Americans lost their lives and more than 1,000 others were wounded. Dec. 7, 1941, will be the day that “lives in infamy” and today we come together to remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice on that December day.
Of the 2,400 who died, 429 were onboard the USS Oklahoma. The attack on the Navy base took place so fast that the Oklahoma quickly sunk, taking nearly everyone on board with it. Shortly after the attack, work began to identify the Sailors and Marines who were on board. Between 1941 and 1944, only 35 men were identified and the nearly 400 unidentified remains were buried as Unknowns at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
For decades, the families of the unidentified Marines and Sailors were left with a void. Generations grew up only knowing their family members died at Pearl Harbor. They would never get the opportunity to say their final goodbyes or offer one final salute. That was until 2015.
The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) exhumed the unknown remains and transferred them to a lab at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska. Scientists and anthropologists used every available tool to identify the remains of the 394 unknown Sailors and Marines. Since the project began, the DPAA has successfully identified 92% of those who were unidentified.
Once a Sailor or Marine is identified, the Military works with the family and airline partners, like Southwest Airlines, to bring their loved one home for their funeral with full military honors. At Southwest, once we get the call that a family will be reunited with their loved one, we get right to work. Our Teams coordinate with a variety of departments spanning the Company to ensure everyone is in lockstep and moving the remains with the dignitary and honor they deserve.
We recently had the opportunity to visit with the niece of a Sailor who was onboard the USS Oklahoma after learning her uncle had been identified. Make sure to watch the video below to see how Southwest assists with bringing closure to families of loved ones who were on board the Oklahoma.
Video by Patric Alva.
On the anniversary of the attacks, the DPAA is ending its USS Oklahoma project. In total, they’ve identified 361 of the 394 Sailors and all unaccounted-for-Marines. 33 Sailors remain unidentified. Their remains are being reinterred at the National Cemetery of the Pacific today.
To learn more about the DPAA, please visit DPAA.mil.