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Underwater but Unforgotten

Making Waves: Episode 120

In this episode, we bring you a new video from NOAA's Ocean Today. It's about two Civil War-era sailors lost at sea over 150 years ago. We hope you enjoy this incredible story that ties together NOAA's national marine sanctuaries and our nation's military heritage. | Download: Underwater but Unforgotten (60 MB)


NARRATOR: A military funeral is a timed-honored tradition. Today, two sailors are laid to rest. But these servicemen did not pass in a recent conflict. They served over 150 years ago during the Civil War.

NARRATOR: The sailors being buried at Arlington National Cemetery were crewmembers on the USS Monitor – a Union ironclad warship. Rough seas caused the ship to sink on December 31, 1862. Sixteen lives were lost. The remains of these two sailors were discovered on the ship's turret, which was raised from her wreck site off the coast of North Carolina in 2002.

SGT. MAJOR DANANG MCKAY: "The importance of recovering of our fallen warriors from past conflicts is to let the nation know, the international community know, that the United States has made a commitment – that once we've put someone in harms way, and they're either missing or killed in action, that we have the resolve to come back and return them back to their families."

NARRATOR: Once pulled from the ocean, the remains were taken to US Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii for identification. Researchers cleaned and preserved the skulls, clay models were crafted, and computer imaging helped reconstruct what the sailors may have looked like. Despite being able to narrow down who these sailors may have been, an exact identification could not be determined.

NARRATOR: At the March 2013 funeral, many descendants of the Monitor's crew were present, as was Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and NOAA Administrator Katherine Sullivan. This public gathering was held to pay respect to the sailors and acknowledge their role in American history.

SGT. MAJOR DANANG MCKAY: "It gives the family closure. I think it also gives the warfighter a sense of comfort to know that no matter what happens the nation hasn't forgotten him, and we will return him back home with honor."

NARRATOR: This burial marked the end of a long journey for the crew on the USS Monitor and showed that despite being underwater for over a century, they were not forgotten.


  • NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
  • Monitor National Marine Sanctuary
  • University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute
  • United States Navy
  • U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command
  • The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
  • The Mariners' Museum
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