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ID of remains is continuing

July 8, 2008
Daily Press

EDITOR:

The USS Oklahoma had 429 casualties at Pearl Harbor. This is second only to the USS Arizona's 1,177. Thirty-five bodies were recovered, identified and returned to their families for burial stateside or remained in Hawaii cemeteries. The remaining 394 names are listed as MIAs on the Courts of the Missing in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (aka Punchbowl).

Recovered remains were first buried in Halawa and Nuuanu naval cemeteries in Honolulu. In 1949, when the Punchbowl was created, the graves in the naval cemeteries were disinterred with the remains transferred to the Punchbowl. There are 381 unknown Oklahoma remains buried in 45 mass grave sites. (Thirteen are unaccounted for.)

In recent years a startling discovery was made that 27 of the Oklahoma unknowns may have been known. Ray Emory, historian for the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association who lives in Honolulu and is a long-time champion of the unknowns at Punchbowl, said he used military records and personnel files to reach his conclusions.

Ray discovered that in 1949 when the graves in the naval cemeteries were disinterred, these 27 remains were given an "X"-designation and stored in the U.S. Army Mausoleum #2, Schofield Barracks, prior to burial in Punchbowl. The American Graves Registration Service recommended that these 27 X-files be redesignated for individual identification, but the recommendations were not accepted .

In the case of Gerald G. Lehman of Hancock, his 293-file states as follows:

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"Board Proceedings, #1775, 15 March 1949, recommending that the remains of Unknown X-232-C, stored, U.S. Army Mausoleum #2, Schofield Barracks, T H., Row P, Casket 157, formerly, Halawa Naval Cemetery, Oahu, T.H., Plot K, Grave 1039, be redesignated as the remains of LEHMAN, Gerald George, F3c, 300 34 76, USN.

"Recommendation of individual identification not accepted by this office, per letter to Field, 21 April 1949."

This letter to the American Graves Registration Service from the quartermaster general states as follows:

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(paragraph 2) "The recommendation of individual identification in cited findings cannot be accepted without a certificate signed by the anthropologist available in your headquarters that articulation has been accomplished to the best of her professional ability."

(paragraph 3) "In the future, on all cases wherein there has been a commingling of remains, and in which your headquarters recommends individual identifications, a certificate attesting to the proper segregation and articulation to the best of her professional ability must be signed by the anthropologist and accompany case papers."

Without the signed certificates from the anthropologist, the 27 X-file cases were buried in the Punchbowl as "Unknowns." Internment records reveal that the remains of X-232-C (Gerald Lehman) were buried in Punchbowl Section P, Grave 1002, along with four other unknown X-files cases. All 27 are buried in four grave sites in Section P. William Michael Finnegan of Dollar Bay, designated as X-217-E, is interned in Grave P-1003 with 10 remains in two caskets.

Grave P-1002 with X-232-C (Lehman) was disinterred in 2003 and, according to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) analysis of the five remains, revealed that they are extensively commingled. No identifications have been established as of this date. However, analysis by our laboratory continues.

Resolution will require extensive DNA testing. That testing is still ongoing.

Robert L. Valley,

volunteer coordinator

for the 27 USS Oklahoma Unknowns, USS Oklahoma Family, Inc., Gladstone

 
 

 

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