The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency is facing criticism over its plan to disinter dozens of unidentified crew members who died on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Their remains are currently buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. While it is common for the agency to disinter bodies in an attempt to identify them, these soldiers will not be identified. Instead, they will be reinterred in the sunken remains of the USS Arizona, to join over 900 men who remained entombed in the battleship.
Officials said that trying to identify the crew members would be a "monumental task" that was more difficult than previous attempts to identify the remains of soldiers on other ships who perished during World War II.
"Right now, we have 12 of the 1,177 family reference samples on file,” DPAA Director Kelly McKeague told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “We have reviewed 700 of the 1,177 wartime records, personnel records. Within that, we only found dental records for 130. We only found stature measurements for about half of them. Without those two pieces of data, searching for, again, 1,177 family reference samples would be a monumental task.”
Despite the challenges, relatives of the missing soldiers believe the agency should do everything it can to identify the remains of those who perished.
“They fly all over the world to bring our servicemen home and identify them and return them to their families,“ Teri Mann-Whyatt told Stars and Stripes. “The USS Arizona is a flagship in our country to never forget, and we’re going to forget them?"
“Why are they not important? Why are they not worth it?” she added.