Rediscovered in 1973, the sunken ship became America’s first National Marine Sanctuary, a National Historic Landmark, and the subject of several expeditions by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Navy, and other partners. At the request of Congress, the Monitor ’s anchor, engine, propeller, and finally her armored turret, with its two massive Dahlgren guns, emerged from the sea for conservation treatment and public display at the USS Monitor Center at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, in sight of where her epic battle was fought.
When the turret was raised in 2002, the remains of two of the ship’s crew were found inside. Respectfully recovered, they were sent to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. There, scientists and archaeologists learned a great deal about those two men, extracted DNA, and began a long and as yet unresolved quest to learn their identities.
Genealogy also played a role, as descendants of the lost crewmen were sought to obtain DNA for a possible match. Working with Louisiana State University’s Faces Laboratory in Baton Rouge, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has now revealed to the nation just what these two men looked like, although which of the crew they were is still undetermined even after a decade of a meticulous and dedicated quest by JPAC.
What should happen now, especially in this 150th anniversary year? I believe the time has come for the nation to recognize and honor that crew with the interment of the two Monitor sailors at the hallowed Arlington National Cemetery. NOAA has proposed, and I agree, that a monument to all 16 who paid the ultimate sacrifice be erected there, with each sailor’s name, rank, and hometown. Beneath it the two who have been found would be laid to rest at last with all due dignity, ceremony, and recognition.