Identifying the fallen from 77 years ago.
Today marks the 77th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and here’s a surprising fact: Even now, the military is not certain exactly how many soldiers died there. Over the last month, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), an organization within the Department of Defense, announced it has accounted for the remains of several soldiers who were previously listed as missing in the attack.
Japan’s surprise attack was devastating from an operational level and affected morale across the country. Amidst the rush to war following the attack, there was also the painstaking effort to recover those who had been sunk with ships like the USS Oklahoma and the USS Arizona. Only 35 dead were positively identified after the attack, a stunning number considering the death toll would turn out to be 2,335.
Since last month, November 2018, the DPAA has identified 6 crewmen who died on the USS Oklahoma: George A. Thompson, Kenneth H. Sampson, Willard I. Lawson, Ulis C. Steely, Charles M. Stern, Jr., and Kirby R. Stapleton. Since 2015, advances in forensic techniques have improved the DPAA’s searching abilities within the Hawaiian waters and by 2020 hopes to have ID’d around 80 percent of the missing.
For some like the family of Carl David Dorr, also of the Oklahoma, coming to terms with history is a humbling moment.
“There was nothing but dead silence,” said Carl’s 70-year-old nephew, Thomas Dorr, told CNN, describing the moment that Dorr’s casket landed in South Carolina. “I knew that what I was experiencing was history.”