It is probably impossible to overestimate the cultural and historic significance of the sunken Japanese "midget" submarine found off Pearl Harbor in late August, the product of the dogged scientific spirit of the University of Hawaii's Undersea Research Lab (HURL). Sought for more than a decade by HURL, the tiny craft that turned up in the last few minutes of the team's final search of the season bears not just the scars of the first encounter of the Pacific War but possibly the remains of the war's first casualties as well.
A shell hole in the submarine's sail indicates the gunnery excellence of the crew of the destroyer Ward (DD-139) and the accuracy of their action report. The 3-inch shell punched through without exploding, and one shot likely killed the skipper, the first casualty of World War II in the Pacific.
But who was the skipper? A careful forensic examination of the interior may yield the answer, even if no physical remains exist to be studied. It is possible, by deduction and elimination, to identify this first casualty outside the realm of forensics, however.