World War II Remains Found in Philippines Could Be Santa Fe Sailor

Remains found in a grave in the Philippines could be those of a teenage Santa Fe sailor who died in World War II.

Moyses Alfonso Martinez was aboard the USS Colorado when the battleship was hit by Japanese artillery shells off the Pacific island of Tinian on July 24, 1944. Four days later, his mother was notified that the 18-year-old seaman 2nd class had been killed in action.

The telegram said the place where he died "could not be revealed" but that burial at sea or at the locality was highly probable, according to a front page story in The New Mexican at the time.

Martinez's body and those of 42 other sailors killed that day were buried on the nearby island of Saipan. Four years later, bodies were exhumed and examined by the Return of the World War II Dead program that identified half of the 15,000 to 20,000 graves of unknown U.S. servicemen around the world.

For some reason, Martinez's body and two others from the USS Colorado remained unidentified and were reburied at Fort McKinley near Manila.

Amateur investigator Ray Emory, 86, a Navy survivor of Pearl Harbor, believes he has identified the previously unknown sailors from the USS Colorado. He said Martinez's dental records show he had almost perfect teeth except for one missing or flawed tooth.

Emory turned over his research on the three graves to Heather Harris, a historian for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command based in Honolulu. She said she will obtain the original dental records of the three sailors and assemble a historical record of the incident that led to their deaths.

Neither of Martinez's parents nor any of his siblings are believed to be living, so the official identification will have to rely on conventional means, such as dental records, rather than DNA.

Harris said it could be years before Martinez's remains are positively identified. Then it will be up to his next of kin to determine where he is reburied.