USS Monitor Crew Honored, Faces Reconstructed

Scientists have recreated the faces of two crew members who died at sea a century and a half ago, and they're hoping the public can help identify them.

Nearly 150 years after 16 USS Monitor sailors died when their vessel sank in a New Year's Eve storm, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has released forensic reconstructions of the faces of two crew members.

Officials unveiled the reconstructions and dedicated a plaque in memory of the Monitor crew during a ceremony sponsored by the United States Navy Memorial Foundation at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. Tuesday.

The skeletal remains of both sailors were discovered inside the Monitor's gun turret after it was raised from the ocean floor in 2002. The men's identities remain a mystery.

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

Scientists estimated one of the men to have been between 17 and 24-years-old and about 5 feet 7 inches tall, with relatively good oral hygiene. The other man was about one inch shorter, between 30 and 40-years-old, and probably smoked a pipe. Both men were white, although the Monitor's crew included at least one African-American.

A Civil War-era Union ironclad warship that revolutionized naval warfare, the USS Monitor is best known for its battle with the Confederate ironclad, CSS Virginia in Hampton Roads, Va., on March 9, 1862. The engagement marked the first time iron-armored ships clashed in naval warfare and signaled the end of the era of wooden ships.

Less than a year later, while being towed to a new field of battle, the Monitor capsized and sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C., carrying 16 crew members to their deaths.

To date, no trace of the other 14 missing members of the crew has been found.

Forensic anthropologists at Louisiana State University's Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) Laboratory volunteered their efforts and created the facial reconstructions by using a combination of scientific and archaeological research, 3-D clay facial reconstruction, computer-generated modeling, and computer-enhanced imaging techniques.

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  • by Anonymous on Mar 6, 2012 at 07:34 PM
    Looks like Jeff Gordon and Bill Clinton to me!!
  • by shonuff on Mar 6, 2012 at 05:22 PM
    Really? Total waste of tax dollars. Thanks Obama
  • by Anonymous Location: darn Bluebellies on Mar 6, 2012 at 04:32 PM
    I know who they are. They are Yankees. Now, stop wasting time and money.
  • by Tom Location: Eastern NC on Mar 6, 2012 at 02:46 PM
    How about DNA ?
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 6, 2012 at 04:58 PM in reply to Tom
      Yankees are so inbred, it's useless
      • reply
        by Rex on Mar 6, 2012 at 05:39 PM in reply to
        I thought it was the Southerners that were Inbred.
        • reply
          by R E Lee on Mar 6, 2012 at 06:32 PM in reply to Rex
          Just the ones in cahoots with the silly Yankees.
  • by Cboy on Mar 6, 2012 at 01:12 PM
    I guess NOAA didn't waste enough taxpayer money on their party boat (google that if you really want to get PO'ed about how your tax dollars are being spent). This is what our govt is borrowing money to pay for???? Time to wake up people.
  • by Formerly Pirateman on Mar 6, 2012 at 12:11 PM
    Heros of The Cause!
  • by Vince Location: Washington on Mar 6, 2012 at 11:48 AM
    You have got to be kidding me. This happened 150 years ago. I'm pretty sure I haven't seen either one of these guys before. Plus, look at the modern hairstyle they are sporting and the clean-shaven faces. I'm thinking that these two guys looked nothing like this back in the day when they were skirting around in the USS Monitor. The reconstruction does't look realistic at all when you consider the time period and conditions these guys lived in. Have the people that did this reconstruction ever looked at a photo, painting, or other depiction of people from 150 years ago? This really causes me to place great doubts in the field of facial reconstruction.
  • by A B on Mar 6, 2012 at 11:48 AM
    They wewe the only crew members on board the rest of the crew were ALOL
    • reply
      by OSOC on Mar 6, 2012 at 03:07 PM in reply to A B
      You know, I thought about that and it seemed that is was being towed and didn't require a real crew. I read a book about the Monitor and the Merrimac many years ago so I was thinking that was in the book. I remember it was so heavily damaged from the battle it had to be towed up north for repairs. Bad weather washed into the vents and sank the ship.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 6, 2012 at 04:17 PM in reply to A B
      What is ALOL?
      • reply
        by ALOL on Mar 6, 2012 at 04:56 PM in reply to
        that's a southern term for Yankees: a lot of laughs
  • by anom on Mar 6, 2012 at 11:19 AM
    it seems that if they knew how many people on board and militery records should list all names of the sailors, it should make it easy to trce who they are, just check the sailors family trees
    • reply
      by Bart on Mar 6, 2012 at 11:52 AM in reply to anom
      Bet they never tried that. You should work on a CSI team.
      • reply
        by Moderators Nightmare on Mar 6, 2012 at 01:59 PM in reply to Bart
    • reply
      by Not So Easy on Mar 6, 2012 at 12:02 PM in reply to anom
      Thousands of military personnel used aliases when recruited. Just in case they decided to go home with out leave. SO it's very difficult to trace an alias
    • reply
      by SFelts on Mar 6, 2012 at 12:28 PM in reply to anom
      Just curious anom. Have you ever done any genealogy research and or Civil War Records Research? And just how are you to trace the family trees of those Sailors if you don't know their names LOL!
  • by BLAH on Mar 6, 2012 at 11:17 AM
    They look like yankees to me.Big jaws tiny brain.
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