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Historians hope to discover what happened to Japanese airmen, sailors killed at Pearl Harbor

Historians hope to solve one of the remaining mysteries of the Pearl Harbor attack and discover what happened to 29 Japanese airmen and four sailors missing in action.

Most are believed to have been lost at sea around Hawaii and in Pearl Harbor. But four aircrew members may still lie buried in unmarked graves in Ewa Beach and in the hills above Aiea.

"For a long time, we didn't even know the names (of the Japanese losses)," said Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. "And I can be honest with you, at a given point in our earlier history, we didn't care, because of the nature of the attack."

Now, Japan is one of the United States' strongest allies and many Americans who survived the bombing have since reconciled with the Japanese attackers.

Martinez says there's a proposal to display the names in an exhibit at the USS Arizona Memorial visitor's center. He said this "will bring total closure to the casualty list that actually exists right here on our grounds."

Martinez said the study will include how some of the enemy Japanese forces were initially buried at Oahu cemeteries and later repatriated.

"I'm just wondering, when those aviators were buried there, what was the feeling in the city about that?" he said

Fifty-four Japanese aviators are believed to have died in or near Hawaii during the Sunday morning attack. A 55th fatality was returned to the carrier Akagi.

Nine sailors who served on five midget submarines are also believed to have died.

Pearl Harbor historian David Aiken said 25 airmen and three submariners were buried at Oahu Cemetery in Nuuanu, Wahiawa cemetery and the Schofield Barracks post cemetery. After the war, the bodies were disinterred and repatriated to Japan, historians say.

Aiken said that leaves 29 airmen unrecovered on or near Hawaii.

Of the nine submariners, the bodies of only three have been found. Two bodies are likely aboard a midget sub found south of Oahu in 2002 by the Hawaii Undersea Research Lab.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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