A Colorado sailor killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor whose remains went unidentified for more than 80 years will be formally laid to rest in Hawaii next month.
U.S. Navy Water Tender 1st Class Milo E. Phillips, 26, who served aboard the USS Oklahoma, will be buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu on Aug. 4.
Phillips, who helped maintain and operate equipment in the battleship’s boiler room, was born in Kansas, but grew up in Galeton, in Weld County, and was living in Pierce at the time of his death.
The upcoming reburial comes amid new efforts to use DNA technology to finally identify the remains of hundreds of crew members recovered from the USS Oklahoma after it was bombed by Japanese planes on Dec. 7, 1941.
That attack, which pulled the United States into World War II, claimed the lives of 2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians, and damaged or destroyed 19 U.S. Navy ships. A total of 429 crew members died after the USS Oklahoma was struck by multiple torpedos dropped by Japanese aircraft, causing the battleship to capsize.
Through the summer of 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of sailors killed on the USS Oklahoma, most of whom were then buried at the Halawa and Nu’uana cemeteries in Hawaii.
In 1947, as part of a new effort to identify those killed at Pearl Harbor, remains were transferred from the two cemeteries to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, where only 35 men from the USS Oklahoma were identified.
Two years later, those who couldn’t be identified were classified by the military as “non-recoverable,” including the remains later identified as belonging to Phillips.
The American Graves Registration Service subsequently reburied the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
In 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed the unknown remains from the USS Oklahoma from the Punchbowl — a part of the Honolulu cemetery where unidentified remains were buried — for new genetic analysis.
After eight decades, Phillips finally was formally identified.
Scientists used anthropological analysis, as well as mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome DNA analysis, to identify the remains.
The six-year effort managed to identify 338 of the 388 people, which beat the forensic anthropologists’ and historians’ goal of identifying at least 315, or 80%, of the unidentified remains.
“Phillips’ name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for,” the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said in a new release.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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