The tomb can be closed in Pearl Harbor. Tuesday December 7, on the occasion of the 80e anniversary of the attack on the US naval base by the Japanese military, the Pentagon has announced that it has completed its casualty identification program. Launched in 2015, it has helped restore an identity to 355 American sailors, whose remains had remained anonymous for decades.
Nearly 13,000 bones, found on the wreckage of theUSS Oklahoma or in the harbor waters, were analyzed, resulting in 5,000 DNA samples. These samples could then be compared with those taken from the descendants of the victims to give a name to the remains and their graves. Only 33 bodies have not revealed their secrets and have been buried again in the Honolulu National Cemetery.
« Remember Pearl Harbor »
In the aftermath of the attack, the US Congress officially declared war on Japan, changing the course of World War II. « Remember Pearl Harbor », on posters, on badges, in songs, had become the rallying cry and mobilization in the United States.
Prepared for months in the greatest secrecy by General Isoroku Yamamoto, the lightning attack on Pearl Harbor – it lasted barely two hours – killed more than 2,400 Americans in total. The Americans had not seen the six Japanese aircraft carriers approaching, which had stopped about 400 km from the island of Oahu.
On December 7, 1941, some 400 Japanese planes took off in two successive waves: 21 American warships were sunk or damaged, as were 328 fighter planes. THE’USS Oklahoma, hit while moored at the quay, tipped over onto its side, trapping hundreds of sailors in its bowels.
Only around thirty victims identified at the time
Among the veterans gathered at Pearl Harbor on Tuesday to participate in the commemorations was David Russel, now 101. He was on board theUSS Oklahoma that fateful day, reading in his compartment, when an officer had sounded the alarm by loudspeaker. « Just then torpedoes started hitting us, boom! » Boom! Boom! Boom! Nine touched us « , remembered the sailor in a radio interview in 2016.
He recently explained to CBS television that his decision to step out onto the ship’s deck, when an order had just been given to close the watertight hatches to protect himself from the attack, had likely saved his life. Many of his shipmates were not so lucky and sank with the ship: 429 perished and, with the limited means at the time, only about 30 could be identified after the fact.