Pearl Har­bor sur­vivor helps iden­tify dead

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Byau­drey Mcavoy

HONOLULU — Ray Emory could not ac­cept that more than one quar­ter of the 2,400 Amer­i­cans who died at Pearl Har­bor were buried, uniden­ti­fied, in a vol­canic crater.

And so he set out to re­store names to the dead.

Emory, a sur­vivor of the at­tack, doggedly scoured decades-old doc­u­ments to piece to­gether who was who. He pushed, and some­times bad­gered, the government into re­la­bel­ing more than 300 grave­stones with the ship names of the de­ceased. And he lob­bied for foren­sic sci­en­tists to ex­hume the skele­tons of those who might be iden­ti­fied.

Fri­day, the 71-year an­niver­sary of the Ja­panese at­tack, the Navy and Na­tional Park Ser­vice will honor the 91-yearold former sailor for his de­ter­mi­na­tion to have Pearl Har­bor re­mem­bered, and re­mem­bered ac­cu­rately.

“Some of the time, we suf­fered crit­i­cism from Ray and some­times it was per­son­ally di­rected at me. And I think it was all for the bet­ter,” said Na­tional Park Ser­vice his­to­rian Daniel Martinez. “It made us re­think things. It wasn’t viewed by me as per­sonal but a re­minder of how you need to sharpen your pen­cil when you re­call th­ese events and the peo­ple and what’s im­por­tant.”

Emory first learned of the un­known graves more than 20 years ago when he vis­ited the Na­tional Me­mo­rial Ceme­tery of the Pa­cific shortly be­fore the 50th an­niver­sary of the at­tack. The ceme­tery’s grounds fore­man told him the Pearl Har­bor dead were scat­tered around the veter­ans’ grave­yard in a vol­canic crater called Punch­bowl af­ter its re­sem­blance to the serv­ing dish.

Emory got a clip­board and walked along row af­ter row of flat gran­ite mark­ers, mak­ing notes of any list­ing death around Dec. 7, 1941. He got hold of the Navy’s burial records from ar­chives in Washington and de­ter­mined which ships the dead in each grave were from.

He wrote the government ask­ing why the mark­ers didn’t note ship names and asked them to change it.

“They po­litely told me to go you-know-where,” Emory said. Mil­i­tary and veter­ans pol­icy called for chang­ing grave mark­ers only if re­mains are iden­ti­fied, an in­scrip­tion is mis­taken or a marker is dam­aged.

Emory ap­pealed to the late Patsy Mink, a Hawaii con­gress­woman who in­serted a pro­vi­sion in an ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill re­quir­ing the De­part­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs to in­clude “USS Ari­zona” on grave­stones of un­knowns from that bat­tle­ship.

To­day, un­knowns from other ves­sels like the USS Ok­la­homa and USS West Vir­ginia, also have new mark­ers.

This grave­stone iden­ti­fies the rest­ing place of seven un­known peo­ple who died on the USS Ok­la­homa.

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