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Pearl Harbor skull unearthed, may be Japanese pilot

Pearl Harbor skull: An excavation crew dredging the harbor recently made the startling discovery of the skull, which archeologists believe is from one of the Japanese aviators in the surprise attack.

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"That's why it's been kept quiet. We didn't want to excite people prematurely," she said.

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The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command on Oahu, charged with identifying Americans who were killed in action but were never brought home, has been asked to determine who the skull belongs to. The cranium was turned over to the command's lab for tests that will include examining dental records and DNA, said John Byrd, the lab's director and a forensic anthropologist.

"We're working on the case but the case is just in the early stages of analysis," he said. "We're not going to know much more about it for a while yet."

The lab is the only accredited Skeletal Identification Laboratory in the United States. JPAC has identified more than 560 Americans since the command was activated in 2003. When more information is gleaned from theskull, other agencies could get involved including the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Japanese Consulate.

JPAC spokesman U.S. Army Maj. Ramon Osorio said forensic archeologists and anthropologists assigned to identify human remains are "working in the blind," meaning they're not given any information about what is believed about the case.

"We want to them to essentially have no prejudice or predisposition about what they think it could be," he said. "It's human nature to want to solve the problem."

The shape of the skull's eye sockets can help reveal ancestry, said Lawrence Kobilinsky, professor of forensic science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

Daniel Martinez, the National Park Service's chief historian for Pearl Harbor, said experts on Pearl Harbor know enough about the specific location where Japanese planes went down in the attack that they might be able to match the skull with a crewmember.

"They landed in a variety places throughout Pearl Harbor and the island of Oahu," Martinez said. "In the area of Pearl Harbor, we know what plane was shot down and who was in the crew."

Martinez said that beyond the historical significance of the finding, it is a reminder of a life lost.

"I think that anytime you're able to reclaim a casualty and perhaps even identify it, regardless of what country, it may bring closure to a family," he said.

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