Bethany Glenn never met her grandfather, John C. England, a 20-year-old Navy ensign from Alhambra who perished in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

But 73 years after that day of infamy, Glenn has made it her mission to recover the remains of England, who rescued men in the battleship Oklahoma's radio room before he fell.

Glenn and the families of 20 other sailors killed at Pearl Harbor say their loved ones are buried as "unknowns" not far from where they died on Dec. 7, 1941. They want the military to exhume the remains and identify them through DNA testing so they can be brought home to be buried alongside their families.

A plot awaits England by his parents' graves in Colorado, Glenn said, noting that it had been purchased by her great-grandmother.

"She never gave up hope that someday they might find something of him," said Glenn, 45, who lives in Washington state near the Oregon border.

The Navy says it doesn't want to disturb the sanctity of the graves. But a bipartisan group of U.S. senators has taken up the families' cause.

The dispute grows out of the efforts of Ray Emory, a sleuthing 92-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor who learned what had happened to seamen buried after the attack that brought the United States into World War II.

Emory discovered that the remains of 27 sailors on the Oklahoma had been identified in 1949, through dental records, when they were being processed for burial in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, better known as the Punchbowl, in Hawaii.

But an anthropologist working with the military declined to sign off on the identification.

"They didn't have all the pieces of every person," said Lisa Ridge, an Indiana teacher working to recover the remains of her grandfather. She said the military at the time did not want to turn over partial remains. As a result, the remains were buried as unknowns in five caskets.

"They never told the families that these people had been identified," said Tom Gray, a Connecticut man seeking to recover the remains of his cousin. He said Edwin Hopkins, a 19-year-old fireman first class aboard the Oklahoma, "deserves better than a commingled grave marked 'unknown' 4,000 miles away from his family."

In 2003, Emory persuaded the military's Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command to exhume one casket. DNA tests identified five sailors and the remains were turned over to their families.

The families of 21 other sailors — one family could not be located — are now trying to persuade the military to do the same for their loved ones. At least seven of the sailors lived in California.

The Oklahoma, which capsized soon after it was hit by multiple torpedoes, suffered 429 deaths, second only to the battleship Arizona's 1,177. The Defense Department lists 388 of the Oklahoma crew members as unaccounted for.

Bob Valley, 81, of Escanaba, Mich., whose 19-year-old brother, Lowell, was killed aboard the Oklahoma, has worked to track down relatives of the 21.

Some families didn't want to be bothered. One family told him: "Leave him where he is. Don't disturb him," Valley said.

But most of the families are eager to recover the remains, even if they never knew their relative.

"I'd like to see him brought home," said Ken Schultz, 58, of the uncle he was named after, Kenneth Jayne. Jayne would be buried alongside family members in Patchogue on Long Island, where a VFW post bears the sailor's name.

Families said proper burials would help them achieve closure.

Ridge used to dream that her grandfather, Paul Nash, a 26-year-old fire controlman first class aboard the Oklahoma, was wandering the streets of Hawaii suffering from amnesia.