Skull Discovered at Pearl Harbor May Belong to WWII Japanese Pilot

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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.





  1. A very interesting article. I hope we will be informed as to the identity of the skull when the investigation is completed.

  2. No. The skull found is most certainly not that of 1st Lt Fusata Iida. Iida was shot down flying his Mitsubishi Zero over Kaneohe and subsequently crashed near Reed Road on MCBH Kaneohe. His body was subsequently burried with military honors on December 8th. His remains were later disintered and returned to Japan.

    Iida was likely shot down by Chief Ordanaceman John Finn who received the Medal of Honor for his actions that day. Iida’s damaged aircraft was unlikely able to return to his carrier and therefor he atempted to crash into either a hangar or other suitable target but ultimately hit the ground only destroying himself and his aircraft.

    So no, this skull found is not Iida’s. History proves it.

  3. Lt. Iida was not killed at Pearl Harbor. He died at Kaneohe. After his initial attack his plane was hemorraging fuel. He knew he would not make it back to the fleet so he turned and attacked again. He was shot down by John Finn who received the Medal of Honor for his actions that day. Iida was not a “kamikaze”. The Japanese “divine wind” campaign did not start until late in the war. His action to die fighting when death was inevitable occurred with members of both sides. This was not a premeditated suicide attack on a vessel. The use of “notorious” is also inaccurate as he was not “widely known for an infamous act”. He was initially buried near Kaneohe with 19 Americans also killed. Around 1950 they were all disinterred and he was cremated and his remains returned to Japan. So he is not your skull. Very poor journalism Malia.

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