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Pentagon plans to identify hundreds killed in Pearl Harbor

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This is from FoxNews.

I think this project is a great thing for the families of the unknowns from the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The families can finally have the peace of mind knowing their loved ones have been identified and given a proper burial.

uss oklahoma

May 24, 1943: File photo, the deck of the capsized battleship USS Oklahoma breaks water at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. (AP Photo, File)

Tom Gray’s family has waited for more than 70 years to bring home the remains of his cousin who was killed in the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

On Tuesday, they got a step closer when the military announced it would exhume and attempt to identify the remains of almost 400 sailors and Marines from the USS Oklahoma who were buried as unknowns after the war.

Gray’s cousin, Edwin Hopkins, of Swanzey, New Hampshire, was a 19-year-old fireman third class on board the USS Oklahoma when the battleship was hit by nine torpedoes and capsized on Dec. 7, 1941. His remains weren’t identified and his family was told he was missing.

Gray said Hopkins’ mother never accepted that. She believed he had amnesia and he would show up one day, Gray said.

Hopkins’ parents, Frank and Alice Hopkins, put his name on their headstone in Keene, New Hampshire, thinking he would join them one day, Gray said.

 They did so, “just waiting for him to come home,” Gray said.

All together, 429 sailors and Marines on board the Oklahoma were killed. Only 35 were identified in the years immediately after.

Hundreds were buried as unknowns at cemeteries in Hawaii. In 1950, they were reburied as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific inside a volcanic crater in Honolulu.

The military is acting now because advances in forensic science and technology as well as genealogical help from family members have made it possible to identify more remains, said Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency spokeswoman.

Officials plan to begin the work in three to six weeks, Morgan said. They aim to identify the remains of up to 388 servicemen within five years.

In 2003, the military disinterred one casket from the Honolulu cemetery, commonly called Punchbowl, based on information provided by Ray Emory, a Pearl Harbor survivor who has spent years doggedly scouring documents.

Many remains were co-mingled when buried, and the military was able to identify five servicemen from that casket. But the coffin also contained the remains of up to 100 others who haven’t been identified.

Gray said his family in 2008 learned from a group of USS Oklahoma survivors that Emory had identified discrepancies in the records of the 22 buried as unknowns, including his cousin.

The 22 are buried in about five graves at Punchbowl, Gray said.

“Since then, the families have been fighting to have these sailors disinterred and brought home,” said Gray, who lives in Guilford, Connecticut.

Gray said he understands it’s an honor to be buried at a national cemetery. At the same time, he said Hopkins is part of his family.

“I also think that a boy gives up his life at 19 years old and ends up in a co-mingled grave marked as ‘unknown’ isn’t proper. I never did,” Gray said.

The unidentified remains of sailors and Marines from other Pearl Harbor battleships, like the USS West Virginia, are also buried at Punchbowl.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced new criteria for exhuming these and other remains from military cemeteries for identification.

In the case of co-mingled remains, the military must estimate it will be able to identify at least 60 percent of the people exhumed. For individual unknowns, there must be at least a 50 percent chance it will be able to identify the person disinterred.

 

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Connecticut man fights Navy for return of WWII sailor’s remains

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This is from Fox News.

Edwin Hopkins should be able to rest with  family.

Edwin Hopkins gave his last full measure of devotion for

His comrades and Hls nation.

We owe it to Edwin Hopkins to return his remains home.

 

hopkins-split.jpg

Edwin Hopkins, left, sits with his mother and father in an undated photograph prior to Hopkins joining the Navy. (TOM GRAY)

Nearly 72 years after his second cousin was killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Tom Gray is still fighting for the remains of the Navy fireman buried half a world away.

Gray, of Guilford, Conn., and his relatives want to bury 3rd Class Fireman Edwin Hopkins in a family cemetery in his hometown of Keene, N.H. The remains of Hopkins, who was 19 when he was killed in the engine room on the USS Oklahoma in 1941, were designated as unknown by the Navy and remain in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii — also known as the “Punchbowl” — along with the remains of five other veterans.

“We just want him returned to his family, that’s what this is all about,” Gray, 64, told FoxNews.com. “This boy deserves to rest with his mother and father. It’s a burden and we want closure.”

 

The entire process to retrieve Hopkins’ remains has been tedious and agonizingly slow, Gray said. After providing mitochondrial DNA as proof of relation following a request from Navy officials, the remaining issue is the sanctity of the graves, he said.

Gray’s campaign for the remains has included letters to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, local elected officials and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. He has also obtained documentation indicating that Hopkins’ remains were uncovered and buried in the Halawa Navy Cemetery in 1943. Six years later, it was recommended that Hopkins’ remains be transferred to another gravesite along with his identity, but an anthropologist refused to sign the certificate because she didn’t have all of the remains to make a full identification. Hopkins’ remains were ultimately transferred as unknown, Gray said.

“I’m doing everything I can to put pressure on them,” he said. “I know it’s an expensive process, but you know they have the means to do it.”

Further complicating matters, Gray said he has also been told by Navy officials that they do not want to disturb the sanctity of the graves in the casket in Hawaii.

“That’s still the case,” Navy spokeswoman Sarah Flaherty told the New Haven Register. “The grave has been disturbed a number of times. We don’t want to keep doing that.”

State Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, is now assisting Gray to connect with local lawmakers to “make a pitch” to Navy officials to exhume the remains, the newspaper reports.

Flaherty said plans for a USS Oklahoma memorial are now being discussed, but that won’t satisfy Gray and his mission to provide a final resting place for his second cousin.

“It’s something that I really want to happen,” he said. “Let’s put it this way: I’m 64 and if I live to be 84, I’m going to work on it that long. The honorable and moral thing to do is to identify this man.”

 

 

Pearl Harbor survivor helps identify unknown dead

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This is from Yahoo News.

 

Ray Emory is a shining example of “The Greatest Generation.”

Ray helped the Livingston family identify and bring their loved one home.

God Bless Ray Emory and his family.

 

HONOLULU (AP) — Ray Emory could not accept that more than one quarter of the 2,400 Americans who died at Pearl Harbor were buried, unidentified, in a volcanic crater.

And so he set out to restore names to the dead.

Emory, a survivor of the attack, doggedly scoured decades-old documents to piece together who was who. He pushed, and sometimes badgered, the government into relabeling more than 300 gravestones with the ship names of the deceased. And he lobbied for forensic scientists to exhume the skeletons of those who might be identified.

On Friday, the 71-year anniversary of the Japanese attack, the Navy and National Park Service will honor the 91-year-old former sailor for his determination to have Pearl Harbor remembered, and remembered accurately.

“Some of the time, we suffered criticism from Ray and sometimes it was personally directed at me. And I think it was all for the better,” said National Park Service historian Daniel Martinez. “It made us rethink things. It wasn’t viewed by me as personal, but a reminder of how you need to sharpen your pencil when you recall these events and the people and what’s important.”

Emory first learned of the unknown graves more than 20 years ago when he visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific shortly before the 50th anniversary of the attack. The grounds foreman told him the Pearl Harbor dead were scattered around the veterans’ graveyard in a volcanic crater called Punchbowl after its resemblance to the serving dish.

Emory got a clipboard and walked along row after row of flat granite markers, making notes of any listing death around Dec. 7, 1941. He got ahold of the Navy’s burial records from archives in Washington and determined which ships the dead in each grave were from.

He wrote the government asking why the markers didn’t note ship names and asked them to change it.

“They politely told me to go you-know-where,” Emory told The Associated Press in an interview at his Honolulu home, where he keeps a “war room” packed with documents, charts and maps. Military and veterans policy called for changing grave markers only if remains are identified, an inscription is mistaken or a marker is damaged.

Emory appealed to the late Patsy Mink, a Hawaii congresswoman who inserted a provision in an appropriations bill requiring Veterans Affairs to include “USS Arizona” on gravestones of unknowns from that battleship.

Today, unknowns from other vessels like the USS Oklahoma and USS West Virginia, also have new markers.

Some of the dead, like those turned to ash, will likely never be identified. But Emory knew some could be.

The Navy’s 1941 burial records noted one body, burned and floating in the harbor, was found wearing shorts with the name “Livingston.” Only two men named Livingston were assigned to Pearl Harbor at the time, and one of the two was accounted for. Emory suspected the body was the other Livingston.

Government forensic scientists exhumed him. Dental records, a skeletal analysis and circumstantial evidence confirmed Emory’s suspicions. The remains belonged to Alfred Livingston, a 23-year-old fireman first class assigned to the USS Oklahoma.

Livingston’s nephew, Ken Livingston, said his uncle and his father were raised together by their grandmother and attended the same one-room schoolhouse. They grew up working on farms in and around Worthington, Ind. Livingston remembers his dad saying the brothers took turns wearing a pair of shoes they shared.

When the family learned Alfred was found, they brought him home from Hawaii to be buried in the same cemetery where his grandmother and mother rest.

About a third of the town showed up for his 2007 memorial service in Worthington, a town of just 1,400 about 80 miles southwest of Indianapolis. The local American Legion put up a sign welcoming home “Worthington’s missing son.”

“It brought a lot of closure,” said Ken Livingston, 62, his voice cracking.

John Lewis, a retired Navy captain who worked with Emory while assigned to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command between 2001 and 2004, said the command is fortunate someone like Emory has the time and initiative to painstakingly connect the dots on the unknowns.

“Without Ray Emory I don’t know if this ever would have been done,” Lewis said from Flowood, Miss.

Emory says people sometimes ask him why he’s spending so much time on events from 70 years ago. He tells them to talk to the relatives to see if they want the unknowns identified.

He doesn’t get emotional about the work, except when the government doesn’t exhume people he thinks should be dug up and identified.

“I get more emotional when they don’t do something,” he said.

He’ll keep working after he’s formally recognized during the Pearl Harbor ceremony on Friday to remember and honor the dead. He has names of 100 more men buried at Punchbowl he believes are identifiable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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