(Photo: Reuters) The U.S. Navy battleship USS West Virginia sinks after an attack by Japanese aircraft on the Hawaiian port of Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – An excavation crew working on the U.S. Navy’s behalf this April discovered a human skull that archaeologists say may belong to a Japanese pilot who died in the December 7, 1941 attack.

(Photo: Reuters) The U.S. Navy battleship USS West Virginia is destroyed after a Japanese air strike

The Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command team based in Hawaii is testing the skull to determine whether it belonged to First Lieutenant Fusata Iida, or whether it belongs to another WWII Japanese pilot.

Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the he National Park Service’s Pearl Harbor, told the London Daily Mail, that “experts there knew enough about the specific location where Japanese planes went down in the attack that they might be able to match the skull with a crew member.”

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

The Sunday morning surprise attack on Hawaii would kill 2,400 U.S. service men and down 55 Japanese airmen and launch the United States into the second world war.

The attack on Pearl Harbor also led to the sinking of the U.S.S. Arizona, which left 900 men entombed there. The Japanese lost 29 aircraft after Americans shot them down during the attack.

The skull was discovered in 30 to 40 feet of water during normal dredging operations of the harbor, said Don Rochon, Director of Public Affairs for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific in Honolulu.

Time Magazine reports that if the skull is confirmed to be that of one of the 55 Japanese aviators who died in the surprise attack by the Japanese, “it will be the first piece of Japanese remains found at Pearl Harbor since World War II.”

The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which was formed in 2003 in hopes of identifying remains of Americans who had been declared missing as a result of war, estimates it will take 6 months to a year to complete the testing. The lab, which looks at DNA and dental records, already has identified 560 Americans killed in action.

“Until we receive the final report of the forensic analysis being conducted by scientists at the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC), we won’t know with certainty whether the remains are a Japanese pilot or not. After the origin and identity of the remains are determined by the experts at JPAC and appropriate notifications are made, a full report will be published by JPAC,” said Rochon.