SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – More than 80 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the remains of a San Leandro sailor have been positively identified by forensic experts among those who lost their lives aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced on Wednesday that the fate of 29-year-old Navy Seaman 1st Class Wilbur F. Newton has finally been confirmed.
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On December 7, 1941, Newton was aboard the USS Oklahoma, docked on Ford Island, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft.
The Oklahoma suffered several torpedo hits, causing it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crew members, including Newton.
From December 1941 to June 1944, naval personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew members, which were then interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries.
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In September 1947, members of the American Graves Registration Service exhumed the remains of the victims from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory in the Schofield Barracks.
The lab staff could only confirm the identifications of 35 Oklahoma men at the time. The agency then buried the unidentified remains in 46 lots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.
Between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the Oklahoma seamen’s remains for analysis.
To identify Newton’s remains, scientists used dental and anthropological analysis. In addition, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis.
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Newton’s remains were returned to his family and will be interred on May 28, 2022 in Mound City, Missouri.