Posts Tagged ‘remains’

Seven decades after Pearl Harbor, DNA testing used to identify remains

December 8th, 2015

Seventy-four years later, the navy is using DNA testing in hopes of at last returning the men’s remains to their families.

The bones of the unidentified crew members have been exhumed from a military cemetery in Hawaii and transported to a laboratory in Nebraska.

The righting and refloating of the capsized battleship USS Oklahoma was the largest of the Pearl Harbor salvage jobs

Seven men have been identified thus far, with 381 members of the Oklahoma’s crew remaining unidentified.

“We need to get these guys home,” Carrie Brown, the anthropologist in charge of the identification initiative told the Washington Post. “They’ve been not home for too long.”

Ms Brown said that while some people may wonder “who’s even alive” to remember the sinking of the Oklahoma, for some people it remains a seminal moment “in their family history”.

Second World War: The battleship USS Arizona belches smoke as it topples over into the sea during a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec 7, 1941. The ship sank with more than 80 per cent of its 1,500-man crew, including Rear Admiral Is

One family from Wisconsin lost three brothers on board the Oklahoma.

Franklin Roosevelt, then-US president, declared December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy”.

More than seven decades later, Pearl Harbor Day commemorations took place across the US on Monday to honour the 2,403 Americans killed in the surprise attack that prompted US entry into the Second World War.

The day after the Japanese attack in Hawaii's Pearl Harbor, young men line up to volunteer at a Navy Recruiting station in Boston, Massachusetts

Of those killed, 1,177 were on board the USS Arizona, which exploded during the attack. They remain trapped inside to this day.

Joseph Langdell, the last surviving officer from the Arizona, died in February at the age of 100. His ashes were interred in the ship during a ceremony on Monday.


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Australian Air Force and Navy uncover remains of 1943 WWII plane

November 20th, 2015

On 21 September, the Royal Australian Air Force collaborated with a Navy diving team to locate the remains of a sunken World War II aircraft.

The plane, the Catalina A24-25, had been used to fly long-range missions against Japanese submarines and shipping vessels. It crashed on 28 February, 1943, killing all 11 military personnel on board.

The Catalina was originally found about 56 kilometers south of Cairns in 2013, but coordination challenges delayed further investigations by two years.

In an official statement, the Royal Australian Air Force said that it intended to “leave the aircraft where it lies as a mark of respect to the crew whose remains are likely to be entombed in the wreckage.”

This newly released footage of the September expedition shows divers swimming through the wreckage.


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Remains of Jewish victims killed for skeleton collection of Nazi anatomy professor buried

September 7th, 2015

The remains of Jewish victims who were killed for the skeleton collection of Nazi anatomy professor August Hirt were buried in northeastern France on Sunday, according to an AFP journalist.

Discovered at a forensic medical institute in eastern France in July, the remains were interred during a ceremony at a cemetery in Strasbourg, attended by prominent local leaders as well as members of the Jewish community and the city’s chief rabbi.

In 1943, 86 Jews were sent to the gas chambers and their bodies brought to Strasbourg, which was then under Nazi occupation, where Hirt was assembling a macabre collection of corpses.

Members of the Jewish community of Strasbourg lower a coffin bearing the remains of a Jewish victim of Nazi anatomist August Hirt

The bodies, some intact, others dismembered or burned, were found in November 1944 after the liberation of Strasbourg, in bins filled with distilled alcohol. Following an autopsy, they were buried in a common grave in 1946.

But two months ago, historian Raphael Toledano found other undiscovered remains at a forensic medicine institute in the city.

Working with the institute’s director, Jean-Sebastien Raul, Mr Toledano managed to identify several of the body parts, including “a jar containing skin fragments of a gas chamber victim“.

Test-tubes containing the intestine and stomach of one of the victims was also found.

Hirt committed suicide in July 1945, before the Nuremberg trials.


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More than 7,000 Japanese war victims’ remains never claimed

August 13th, 2015

Approximately 100,000 people perished in the inferno, a further 125,000 were injured and 1.5 million people lost their homes.

The cities of Osaka, Yokohama, Kamaishi and Sakai were also identified as important strategic targets for the Allies and were heavily bombed.

The remains of 815 people remain in storage in Hiroshima, killed in the first atom bomb attack, while 122 residents of Nagasaki are awaiting collection.

Temples in each of the cities are storing the remains of people who could be identified by their clothing or identity papers but have never been collected by relatives.

The temples have repeatedly appealed for family members to come forward to take their relatives’ remains but it is unlikely that any more remains will be claimed seven decades after the war ended.

In many cases, men sent to the front never returned and other family members were killed but never identified.

As many as 500,000 Japanese civilians died in the conflict.


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Japan searches for Second World War soldiers’ remains in sealed caves of Palau

March 29th, 2015

A team of experts took five days last week to clear their way into just one small cave with a 7ft opening.

Archaeologists found a set of bones which are believed to be human and will be taken back to Japan for testing.

“They found some bones while they were clearing the entrance of the cave,” Bernadette Carreon, a local journalist, told ABC Radio. “They did not use heavy equipment because they have to make it clear of heavy ordnance. When it’s clear, the archaeologists can go in and start bone collection.”


Marines smoke cigarettes, but keep their weapons close in a blasted landscape of Peleliu Island, Palau during WWII

The attempt to find the bodies has been welcomed in Japan and is part of an effort to end a brutal chapter from the war, in which US marines were pitted against Japanese troops who had set up their defences in the intricate labyrinth of heavily fortified caves and underground bunkers. It is still regarded as one of the harshest conflicts in the history of the marines.

Unlike previous battles in the Pacific, the Japanese did not focus their defence on using suicide charges to prevent the Americans from establishing a beachhead.

Instead, the Japanese forces largely allowed the marines to land but staged their defence from inside the caves.

The Japanese, who had occupied Palau for about 30 years, had spent decades using dynamite and axes to enlarge existing caves on Peleliu and blast out new ones. The caves and their entrances were then heavily camouflaged.

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The US forces expected the battle in September 1944 to last only four or five days. “It will be a hard-fought quickie,” predicted William Rupertus, the US marine commander. It took more than 10 weeks.

More than 1,600 US soldiers were killed during the battle, which ended with the marines blowing up many of the caves, leaving thousands of the enemy trapped inside. Shortly before the Americans finally seized the small island in late November, Col Kunio Nakagawa, the Japanese commander, atoned for his defeat by committing ritual suicide in his post.

About 35 Japanese soldiers remained hiding in the caves until April 1947, more than 18 months after the war officially ended. They were the last troops to surrender.

Keiji Nagai, 93, and Kiyokazu Tsuchida, 95, two of the 35 soldiers who surrendered in 1947, met the Japanese emperor and empress earlier this month to provide an account of the hand-to-hand combat they experienced during the battle. The empress quietly told Mr Nagai: “You went through a lot.”

Authorities began collecting the remains at various locations around the island in 1953, but Japanese authorities say 2,600 soldiers have yet to be found. The bodies are believed to be holed up inside about 200 caves which were deemed dangerous and left sealed to prevent public access. About 450 Japanese soldiers survived the battle and later helped to direct the authorities to the site of graves.


The island of Peleliu (Alamy)

The entire island has become something of a monument to the battle, with unexploded bombs a constant threat to residents and tourists. Following the war, Japan created a peace park which included a Shinto shrine with the inscription “To all countries’ unknown soldiers”.

Officials in Palau have worked closely with Japan to try to recover the remaining bodies and return them to the families of the soldiers. Some representatives of the families of the Japanese soldiers have assisted with the search.

Sachio Kageyama, from a group representing families and fellow soldiers of those who fought on the island, told The Japan Times: “I hope the forthcoming visit by the emperor will pave the way for [further] collection of remains.”

Palau, a remote cluster of islands east of the Philippines with a population of about 21,000, was the scene of heavy fighting during the war. The fierce battle at Peleliu was over an airfield now deemed of questionable strategic value by most historians.

The search for the bodies has also focused on a long-lost mass grave on the western side of the island, close to where the current cave search is being conducted.

US military documents indicating the cemetery’s location were found two years ago at a naval museum in California. The documents included a map created in January 1945 which says “Japanese cemetery” and points to the centre of the island. A separate report from a construction battalion says that logs were placed on the site to prevent people disturbing the graves. US officials reportedly told Palau in 1994 that a mass grave was located near Nakagawa’s grave.

US experts have also been searching Palau’s coral reefs, lagoons and islands for planes that were lost in the conflict. Last year, underwater robots were used to find two warplanes on the ocean floor.


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