Ac­count­ing agency has iden­ti­fied nearly 200 sailors from cap­sized Ok­la­homa

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Honolulu — More than 75 years after nearly 2,400 mem­bers of the U.S. mil­i­tary were killed in the Ja­panese at­tack at Pearl Har­bor, some who died on Dec. 7, 1941, are fi­nally be­ing laid to rest in ceme­ter­ies across the United States.

In 2015, the De­fense POW/ MIA Ac­count­ing Agency ex­humed nearly 400 sets of re­mains from the Na­tional Me­mo­rial Ceme­tery of the Pa­cific in Hawaii after de­ter­min­ing ad­vances in foren­sic science and ge­nealog­i­cal help from fam­i­lies could make iden­ti­fi­ca­tions pos­si­ble. They were all on the USS Ok­la­homa, which cap­sized dur­ing the at­tack, and had been buried as un­knowns after the war.

Al­to­gether, 429 sailors and Marines on the Ok­la­homa were killed. Only 35 were iden­ti­fied in the years im­me­di­ately after the at­tack. The Ok­la­homa’s ca­su­al­ties were sec­ond only to the USS Ari­zona, which lost 1,177 men.

As of ear­lier this month, the agency has iden­ti­fied 186 sailors and Marines from the Ok­la­homa who pre­vi­ously were uniden­ti­fied.

Slowly, the re­mains are be­ing sent to be re­buried in places like Traer, Iowa, and On­tanogan, Mich.

Here’s a look at some of those who have ei­ther al­ready been re­buried this year or who will be in­terred to­day:

Durell Wade

Wade was born in 1917 in the Hardin Town com­mu­nity of ru­ral Cal­houn County, Mis­sis­sippi. He en­listed in the Navy in 1936 and in 1940 re-en­listed for an­other two-year tour.

His burial in his home state orig­i­nally was planned for a week­end, when it would be more con­ve­nient for peo­ple to at­tend. But be­cause of sched­ul­ing con­flicts at the North Mis­sis­sippi Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial Ceme­tery, his fam­ily de­cided that to­day, the 77th an­niver­sary of the at­tack, would be an ap­pro­pri­ate date even if some peo­ple have to take time off, said his nephew Dr. Lawrence Wade.

He was one of the sailor’s rel­a­tives who pro­vided DNA to help iden­tify him.

“My mid­dle name is his name, Durell. My grand­son has that name also,” said the 75-year-old re­tired psy­chi­a­trist from Ba­ton Rouge, La. “I’d gone through my life not re­ally know­ing any­thing about him, other than I car­ried his name and he was killed at Pearl Har­bor. Once this DNA process came along and made it pos­si­ble to iden­tify his re­mains, it just made him much more of a real per­son to me.”

Wade has been plan­ning the fu­neral. A gospel singer will sing the na­tional an­them. Bag­pipes will play. Pi­lots will con­duct a fly­over. Mis­sis­sippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Capt. Brian Horts­man, com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of Naval Air Sta­tion Merid­ian, will make re­marks.

Wil­liam Brue­se­witz

Re­nate Starck has been pon­der­ing the eu­logy she’ll give at the fu­neral for her un­cle, Navy Sea­man 1st Class Wil­liam Brue­se­witz, to­day.

“We al­ways have thought of him on Dec. 7,” she said. “He’s al­ready such a big part of that his­tory.”

Brue­se­witz, of Ap­ple­ton, Wis., will be buried in Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery, near Wash­ing­ton, D.C. “It’s a real bless­ing to have him re­turn­ing and we’ve cho­sen Ar­ling­ton be­cause we feel he’s a hero and be­longs there,” Starck said.

About 50 fam­ily mem­bers from Wis­con­sin, Flor­ida, Arkansas and Mary­land will at­tend.

“We were too young to know him but we’re old enough that we felt his loss,” Starck said. “We know some sto­ries. There’s this sto­ic­ness about things from that time that kept peo­ple from talk­ing about things that hurt.”

Wil­liam Kvidera

Hun­dreds of peo­ple filled a Catholic church in Traer, Iowa, in Novem­ber for Wil­liam Kvidera’s fu­neral.

The solemn cer­e­mony in his home­town in­cluded full mil­i­tary hon­ors, the Water­loo-Cedar Falls Courier re­ported.

“It’s some­thing like a dream,” his brother, John Kvidera, 91, said.

John Kvidera was 14 when he found out about the bomb­ings at Pearl Har­bor and re­mem­bers hud­dling around a ra­dio to find out what was go­ing on. The fam­ily ini­tially re­ceived a tele­gram say­ing Wil­liam, the old­est of six sib­lings, was miss­ing in ac­tion.

A tele­gram in Fe­bru­ary 1943 no­ti­fied the fam­ily of his death.

Robert Kim­ball Holmes

The re­mains of Ma­rine Pfc. Robert Kim­ball Holmes were in­terred in Au­gust in his home­town of Salt Lake City.

“It’s strange, isn’t it, to be here hon­or­ing a 19-year-old kid killed 77 years ago,” nephew Bruce Holmes said.

Only one per­son in at­ten­dance at the grave­side ser­vices — an­other nephew and name­sake Bob Holmes — had any per­sonal mem­o­ries of the Ma­rine, The Salt Lake Tri­bune re­ported.

The younger Bob is now more than four times older than the sailor was when he died at Pearl Har­bor. He re­mem­bers his un­cle com­ing home on leave in the sum­mer of 1941 when he was 6 years old.

Bob Holmes re­called talk­ing to a friend of his un­cle who served with him on the Ok­la­homa: “He said, ‘One of the things that I re­mem­ber most about Bob is that he had this at­ti­tude. Not just a Ma­rine at­ti­tude, but a Holmes boy at­ti­tude — de­fi­ance, ag­gres­sion and don’t-mess-with-me.”

Low­ell Val­ley

For 20 years, Navy Fire­man 2nd Class Low­ell Val­ley’s brother worked to iden­tify USS Ok­la­homa sailors.

Now that Val­ley has been iden­ti­fied and his re­mains have been re­turned home to On­ton­agon, Mich., Bob Val­ley ex­pects his role in help­ing iden­tify a group of 27 sailors will soon be over. All 27 have been lo­cated.

Low­ell Val­ley was buried at the Holy Fam­ily Catholic ceme­tery in July, the Iron Moun­tain Daily News re­ported.

Leon Arickx

More than 76 years after he died, the re­mains of Navy Sea­man 1st Class Leon Arickx were buried on a bril­liant sum­mer day at a small ceme­tery amid the corn­fields of north­ern Iowa.

Hun­dreds gath­ered in July for Arickx’s grave­side ser­vice at Sa­cred Heart Ceme­tery out­side Osage, Iowa, in a sparsely pop­u­lated farm­ing re­gion just south of Min­nesota, where Arickx grew up. Among them was his niece, Jan­ice Schon­rock, who was a baby when Arickx died.

Al­though they didn’t have Arickx’s re­mains, his fam­ily held a me­mo­rial ser­vice and placed a grave marker at Sa­cred Heart Ceme­tery in 1942. When his re­mains were fi­nally re­turned, they were buried at a site not far away.

Schon­rock said her fam­ily ap­pre­ci­ates the work it took to iden­tify her un­cle, but she be­lieves it’s es­sen­tial to iden­tify as many ser­vice mem­bers as pos­si­ble.

“I think we need to honor these peo­ple who give their lives to our coun­try and bring them back to their home coun­try where they can be close to fam­ily who can honor them,” she said. “No one should be left be­hind.”


U.S. Navy sailors fold the U.S. flag draped over the cas­ket with the re­mains of Sea­man First Class Leon Arickx at Sa­cred Heart Ceme­tery in Osage, Iowa.


In this Dec. 5, 2012, file photo, the Na­tional Me­mo­rial Ceme­tery of the Pa­cific in Honolulu dis­plays a grave­stone iden­ti­fy­ing it as the rest­ing place of seven un­known peo­ple from the USS Ok­la­homa who died in the Ja­panese bomb­ing of Pearl Har­bor, Hawaii. More than 75 years after nearly 2,400 mem­bers of the U.S. mil­i­tary were killed in the at­tack, some who died on Dec. 7, 1941, fi­nally are be­ing laid to rest in ceme­ter­ies across the United States.

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