RIP, Wake 98
It’s been a year and a half since I posted about the Wake 98 and the JPAC/DPAA mission to identify a group of remains found on the island in 2011. I wish I had some news to share, but I don’t. I maintained close contact with authorities at JPAC and the lab at Dover AFB over the years as we found DNA donors for over 70 of the 98 massacre victims, but as my search came to an end, my connections dwindled and I have had no response to inquiries over the past year. As far as I know there have been no positive identifications of the remains, but also no firm closure of the mission. It may be time to let the Wake 98 rest in peace.
I wrote in this blog many times about the men and the JPAC mission, and those posts can still be found in the blog archives for November 2012; January, February, April, June, August, October, and December 2013; March and October 2014; September 2016; and February and July 2016. Those early blog posts reflect the dedication of the mission and high hopes that we would be able to bring closure to some of the families who lost their loved ones on Wake Island.
I was fortunate and honored to visit Wake as a guest of the Air Force in late 2011 and had already volunteered to help JPAC locate family members of the massacre victims for DNA reference samples. My first morning on the island I woke early (truth be told, I probably didn’t sleep much at all) and walked alone up the north beach to the site where JPAC had recovered the remains a few months earlier. I poked around a while, collected shells and bits of coral from the beach to give to the families I had already contacted, and turned back down the beach into the trees. It was seven years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday: the deep emotional bond I felt with the place and the graceful, white fairy terns who hovered overhead and looked at me with big black eyes as I entered the trees.
No known positive DNA matches to date allows for a broad spectrum of assumptions, depending on how you view half a glass of water.
• Still working on it
• Stuck on a back burner
• Fell through the cracks
• No matches, case closed
Family members of the victims can try calling the Navy Casualty Office (1-800-443-9298) and/or attending one of the DPAA’s 2019 family meetings (see schedule at www.dpaa.mil/Families/Family-Events).
We will continue to honor the men who died on Wake Island at the mass grave in Punchbowl Cemetery and they will not be forgotten.