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SECNAV: Monitor Sailors to be Buried in Arlington

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Facial reconstruction of the two unknown sailors from USS Monitor from a March,6 2012 ceremony in Washington D.C. U.S. Navy Photo

Facial reconstruction of the two unknown sailors from USS Monitor from a March,6 2012 ceremony in Washington D.C. U.S. Navy Photo

Two of the U.S. Navy’s oldest unknown sailors from the Civil War ship USS Monitor will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery in March, announced Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus on Tuesday.

The decision comes after more than a decade of work to by the Joint Prisoner of War Missing in Action Command to identify the remains, Navy spokesperson Lt. Lauryn Dempsey told USNI News on Wednesday.

“It’s navy custom and tradition to honor the final resting place of those in ships and lost aircraft,” Dempsey said.

“Secretary Mabus announced his decision to inter the two sailors at Arlington National Cemetery March, 8 to coincide with the 151st anniversary of the Battle Hampton Roads.”

The 1862 battle pitted Monitor against the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia off the coast of what is now Naval Station Norfolk. The contest was a draw but marked the first clash between ironclad ships and served as a precursor to the naval battles of World War I.

The unknown sailors on Monitor likely died when the ship went down New Years Eve 1862 off of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The remains of the sailors were discovered in the turret of the downed ship in 2002.

Last year the unknown sailors were given faces after researchers at the Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services Laboratory at Louisiana State University reconstructed the sailors’ appearance from their remains.

From the analysis researchers determined both sailors were white with one in his 30s and the other 17 to 24 years old.

JPAC has identified 30 possible descendants from the two sailors and will keep samples of the remains to help with identification efforts in the future, Dempsey said.

For more information on the sailors on Monitor see this April story in the Naval Institute’s Naval History magazine.