Decades after his death, remains of Indianapolis sailor killed at Pearl Harbor identified


Edward Shelden/photo provided

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The remains of an Indianapolis sailor who served aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor have been identified decades after his death.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Navy Fire Controlman 1st Class Edward J. Shelden was serving aboard the battleship as it was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. Japanese aircraft attacked the Oklahoma, which sustained multiple hits and capsized, killing 429 crewmen.

Shelden was among those killed, but identifying the remains proved challenging. From December 1941 through June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains and interred them in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries.

In September 1947, the American Graves Registration Services disinterred the remains and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. However, the staff was able to identify only 35 members of the Oklahoma crew.

The unidentified remains were buried in 46 plots at Honolulu’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), also known as the Punchbowl. In 1949, Shelden’s remains and those of the other crewmen were classified as non-recoverable.

However, in April 2015, the deputy secretary of defense issued a policy memorandum to again disinter the remains in hopes that advances in forensic technology would allow for identification. The remains were exhumed in June 2015.

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Shelden was officially accounted for on July 26, 2018. Scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis, dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence, to identify Shelden’s remains.

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