The USS Turner on the East River.
The USS Turner on the East River. US Navy/Public Domain

On January 3rd, 1944, the USS Turner was undergoing routine drills off the coast of New Jersey when an explosion tore through its stowage. As blast after blast rocked the naval destroyer, nearby ships rushed to save those onboard—but when she sank, around 8:30 in the morning, she took 136 sailors with her.

For years, the Pentagon marked these men “missing.” But thanks to a new collaboration between a WWII historian and the Department of Defense, they may be found after all.

As the Washington Post reported, the case was reopened last year, when WWII historian Ted Darcy dug up documents that indicated four of the “missing” men had actually been buried—in a military cemetery in Farmingdale, Long Island. At the cemetery, he found four white graves marked “Unknown U.S. Sailor,” along with the date of the Turner’s sinking.

Darcy thinks more sailors may be buried there, too. Now, The DoD is officially looking for more details, the Associated Press reports.

The USS Turner on the day it sank.
The USS Turner on the day it sank. US Navy/Public Domain

Even with the government on the case, there’s still a long road ahead. In order for to justify disinterment—required to identify buried remains—more paperwork needs to be unearthed, something that could take years. And at least one sailor rescued from the sinking ship doesn’t think many bodies were recovered in the aftermath.

But relatives and descendants of the fallen soldiers, who have gone without any clues for over seven decades, are somewhat relieved. “I’d like to see if we can have closure on this,” Richard Duffy, the nephew of a sailor killed in the blast, told the AP.

Marjorie Avery, who is now 82 and was the daughter of the Turner’s captain, had a bittersweet response when informed that her father might not be missing after all. “Oh my goodness,” she said. “I would’ve liked to have known that.”

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