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Pearl Harbor victim gets funeral 75 years later

Posted at 3:27 PM, Mar 09, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) — A sailor killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor is being buried with full military honors nearly 75 years after the bombing.

Machinist's Mate 1st Class Vernon Luke of Green Bay, Wisconsin is being buried at a veterans cemetery in Honolulu on Wednesday.

The 43-year-old man died when Japanese planes bombed his battleship, the USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941.

After World War II, he was buried as an "unknown" along with nearly 400 other unidentified sailors and Marines from the battleship.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency last year dug up their remains, saying advances in forensic science and technology had made identification more feasible.

It disinterred 61 caskets at 45 grave sites at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, which is in an extinct volcanic crater commonly known as Punchbowl. Many coffins contained comingled remains of multiple people.

Luke was among the first five from the Oklahoma who was identified and whose family has been notified, agency spokeswoman Lt. Col. Holly Slaughter said. He is the first of the newly identified to be reburied, she said.

The cemetery plans to rebury Luke in one of the exhumed gravesites.

A second sailor will be reburied at Punchbowl on March 18. Ensign Lewis Stockdale of Anaconda, Montana was 27 when he was killed in the Pearl Harbor attack. Altogether, 429 onboard the Oklahoma were killed. Only 35 were identified in the years immediately after. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency expects to identify 80 percent of the Oklahoma unknown within five years.

Military laboratories in Hawaii, Nebraska and Delaware have been studying the remains using dental records and DNA analysis.

More than 2,400 sailors, Marines and soldiers were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Oklahoma's casualties were second only to the USS Arizona, which lost 1,177 men.