Before the advent of modern techniques such as dental x-ray records and DNA testing, identifying the remains of fallen servicemembers was a more difficult task than it is today. There are thousands of U.S. military members that are known or thought to have died in previous conflicts, but whose remains have not been positively identified and returned to their families.
U.S. Marine Corps Private Vernon Paul Keaton was one such case. He was aboard the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor when it was torpedoed. He and hundreds of other aboard the ship were killed.
In 1947, the remains gathered from the ship were sent to a laboratory in Hawaii for processing, but Keaton was among those who was declared unrecoverable at that time.
However, mitochondrial DNA testing changed all of that. The Department of Defense began testing the remains from the Oklahoma two years ago, and was able to match Keaton’s remains to his surviving niece in Oklahoma.
She had Keaton buried near his parents in Lula, Oklahoma. He was given full military honors.
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