Image 1 - NOAA Uses Modern Tech To Recreate Faces Of USS Monitor Sailors
March 7, 2012

NOAA Uses Modern Tech To Recreate Faces Of USS Monitor Sailors

NOAA´s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has released forensic reconstructions of the faces of two USS Monitor crew members. Officials dedicated a plaque in memory of the Monitor crew and unveiled the reconstructions to the public during a ceremony in Washington on Tuesday. The ceremony was sponsored by the United States Navy Memorial Foundation.

When the gun turret of the Monitor was raised from the ocean in 2002, the skeletal remains of these two sailors were found within. Through forensic evidence and research, NOAA was able to learn much about the physical characteristics of the men. However, the identities of these sailors remains a mystery. NOAA hopes that by releasing these images, someone will be able to step forward and identify these two sailors.

Superintendent of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary said on Tuesday, “These are the faces of men who gave their lives for their country at a pivotal moment in American history. “The best case scenario is that someone will emerge, perhaps a descendent, who can give these faces a name.”

Both of the recovered skeletons were nearly complete and well preserved, according to a report by the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC). Medical and naval records indicate that there could be as many as six people who fit the description of the two sailors. The older of the two sailors could be one of two possible crew members. There could be as many as four matches for the younger sailor, however.

James Delgado, the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration´s Maritime Heritage Program said in an interview with the Associated Press (AP), “At this stage we don´t know who these guys are, We can tell you a fair amount about them, but that´s about as far as forensic science takes us without a DNA match."

The Forensic anthropologists at Louisiana State University´s Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) Laboratory were responsible for creating the facial reconstructions of the two sailors. Utilizing modern technologies and techniques such as computer-enhanced imaging, computer-generated modeling, and 3-D clay facial reconstruction, this team volunteered their time to help find the true identity of these forgotten sailors.

“We don´t know all the answers about their lives but the reconstruction is a way to bring the past to life, to create something as similar as possible to the original,” said Mary H. Manhein, FACES lab director. “To see the faces take shape, to go from bone to flesh is very exciting. Our hope is that someone seeing the sculptures may recognize the face as an ancestor.”

In the press release, Rear Admiral Jay A. DeLoach, USN (Ret.) head of the Naval History & Heritage Command said "Our job is to not only protect and preserve our Naval history, but to make it 'come alive' to our sailors and the public. The fusion of science, technology and history has breathed life into our shipmates, and we are very proud of the legacy we have inherited from the sailors of the USS Monitor."

The USS Monitor was a Civil War-era ironclad warship used by the Union. Best known for its battle with confederate ironclad warship, the CSS Virginia, the Monitor revolutionized naval warfare and ushered in the end of the era of wooden ships.

It sank on New Year´s Eve, 1862, killing 16 members of its crew. The two sailors in question are the only two members of the crew to every be found.

Fund raising has already begun to erect a Monitor monument in Arlington and, if no one steps forward to identify the two sailors, the NOAA wants to bury them there.


Image 1: LEFT: Clay model of the face of a USS Monitor sailor whose remains were found in the gun turret in 2002. RIGHT: Computer enhanced image showing what the unknown sailor may have looked like while aboard the USS Monitor in 1862. Credit: Louisiana State University

Image 2: A diver swims above the bow of the USS Monitor. Credit: NOAA


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