HONOLULU (AP) - An excavation crew recently made a startling discovery at the bottom of Pearl Harbor when it unearthed a skull that archeologists suspect is from a Japanese pilot who died in the historic attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
Archaeologist Jeff Fong of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific described the discovery to The Associated Press and the efforts under way to identify the skull. He said the early analysis has made him "75 percent sure" that the skull belongs to a Japanese pilot.
He did not provide specifics about what archaeologists have learned about the skull, but said it was not from one of Hawaii's ancient burial sites. They also contacted local police and ruled out the possibility that it's from an active missing person case, said Denise Emsley, public affairs officer for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii.
The items found with the skull provided some clues: forks, scraps of metal and a Coca-Cola bottle Fong said researchers have determined was from the 1940s.
Fifty-five Japanese airmen were killed and 29 of their aircraft were shot down in the attack, compared with the 2,400 U.S. service members who died. No Japanese remains have been found at Pearl Harbor since World War II.
The skull remains intact despite being dug up with giant cranes and shovels.
Items plucked from the water during the overnight dredging were laid to dry. When it was determined a skull was among the dredged items, contractors were ordered to stop the work, Emsley said.
"We definitely wanted it to be handled correctly."