Wednesday, February 13, 2013

USS Monitor pair to be interred at Arlington

Despite extensive scientific and genealogical research, experts are unable to identify the remains of two crew members whose remains were found in its gun turret decades after the USS Monitor went down off the North Carolina coast.

Facial reconstructions (U.S. Navy)
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced Tuesday that the sailors will be buried March 8 – the 151st anniversary of the famed ironclad’s clash with the Confederacy’s Virginia -- in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

The battle at Hampton Roads, Va., marked the first time iron-armored ships met in naval warfare and signaled the end of the era of wooden ships. The battle ended in a draw.

"These may very well be the last Navy personnel from the Civil War to be buried at Arlington," Mabus said in a statement. "It's important we honor these brave men and all they represent as we reflect upon the significant role Monitor and her crew had in setting the course for our modern Navy."

The Monitor sank Dec. 31, 1862, off Cape Hatteras, claiming 16 lives. About 50 men survived. The ship’s wreckage was discovered in the early 1970s.

During the summer of 2002, while attempting to recover the 150-ton turret, Navy divers discovered human remains inside.

The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, working with other federal agencies, tried to identify the men, last year releasing facial reconstructions of the pair. But, so far, there has been no definitive DNA match.

“Given the age of the remains, efforts to identify them were unsuccessful,” the Navy said. “However, JPAC was able to narrow down possible descendants of the unknown sailors to 30 family members from 10 different families.”

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