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Colorado man working to get USS Arizona unknowns identified

David Bitton, The Gazette on

Published in News & Features

If COVID-19 regulations allow, Stratton and other family members plan to be at Pearl Harbor this December for the 80th anniversary of the bombing.

He also plans to visit the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

“We are going to tour all the unknown graves and talk to them personally and let them know that they are going to be coming home soon,” Stratton said.

Earlier this year Stratton posted on Twitter asking if anyone knew anything about DNA. He quickly heard back from George Heinrichs, CEO of ANDE Corp. in Longmont.

After hearing what Stratton was attempting, Heinrichs said the company — which makes rapid DNA testing units roughly the size of a microwave that produce results in under two hours — would gladly help. And he offered to help free of cost.

“When I heard the story of the people who served on the USS Arizona that they weren’t identified yet, it just seemed crazy to me,” Heinrichs said. “We will offer our technology and resources to get it done because I believe we owe it to them.”

ANDE Corp.’s equipment was used by the military to quickly identify Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, in 2019 when he blew himself up.

Their equipment was also used to help identify the more than 80 people who died in Paradise, California, in late 2018 during the Camp Fire.

 

“Normally, that process, if they do it at all, takes years, particularly with remains that have been burned at the temperatures of that fire,” Heinrichs said. “Using our technology, we can process the remains and give you an ID.”

Identifying sailors and Marines from 80 years ago is possible, but it requires digging up the remains and comparing them to family DNA samples, which will need to be collected.

“I think we have a high probability of identifying the remains that are there,” Heinrichs said. “And if we’re diligent in getting the reference database built with family members, hopefully we’ll be equally successful identifying all the exact individuals.”

In the past few days, Stratton said numerous county sheriff's offices have volunteered to collect DNA samples once this initiative really gets going.

But for now, Stratton can be reached at www.facebook.com/ussarizonasurvivor or ussarizonaunknowns@gmail.com.

Heinrichs said ANDE Corp. is looking at ways to ensure privacy for those who provide DNA samples.

“I’m excited to get this done,” Heinrichs said. “This will warm my heart.”

©#YR Colorado Springs Gazette. Visit at gazette.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.