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Missing USS Oklahoma sailor from Colorado identified after 80 years

Navy Water Tender 1st Class Milo E. Phillips was on the USS Oklahoma when it was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced Monday that Navy Water Tender 1st Class Milo E. Phillips, 26, of Pierce, Colorado, killed during World War II, has been accounted for.

Phillips was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941.

The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Phillips, said DPAA.

> Video above from Dec. 2021: Colorado remembers the impact of Pearl Harbor attack 80 years later.

Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew from December 1941 to June 1944, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries.

In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu.

DPAA said the laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. The AGRS buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Phillips.

Credit: Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of the Navy
Navy Water Tender 1st Class Milo E. Phillips

Between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis.

To identify Phillips’ remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis, said DPAA.

Phillips’ name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Phillips will be buried on Aug. 4, 2022, at the Punchbowl. For family and funeral information, contact the Navy Service Casualty office at 800-443-9298.

Phillips was accounted for on March 1, 2021, but his family only recently received their full briefing on his identification.

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