Ma­rine iden­ti­fied 77 years after Pearl Har­bor at­tack to be buried be­side par­ents

The Fresno Bee - - Front Page - BY CAR­MEN GE­ORGE cge­[email protected]­nobee.com

Nieces of Ma­rine Jack Cre­mean held each other and cried as a plane con­tain­ing the re­mains of their un­cle ap­proached Wed­nes­day at Fresno Yosemite In­ter­na­tional Air­port, 77 years after he was killed in the at­tack on Pearl Har­bor.

They thought of their moth­ers and grand­par­ents who have died and had wanted to be there for that mo­ment. After years of wait­ing, Cre­mean’s re­mains were fi­nally iden­ti­fied in Au­gust us­ing DNA that a sis­ter sub­mit­ted to the mil­i­tary 17 years ago.

“I’m just so glad he’s back, glad he’s home,” said niece Es­ther Spradlin after Cre­mean’s flag-draped cas­ket was loaded into a hearse by a Ma­rine honor guard.

There will be a pub­lic fu­neral Fri­day, on the an­niver­sary of the Pearl Har­bor bomb­ing, in Madera’s Ar­bor Vi­tae Ceme­tery. Cre­mean’s cas­ket – con­tain­ing some bones, old pho­tos, Ma­rine uni­form, and a poem from his mother’s scrap­book – will be buried be­side his par­ents.

Niece Donna Moren held a red, white and blue “Wel­come Home!” bal­loon as the plane bear­ing his cas­ket touched down in Fresno.

Cre­mean’s three nieces said they grew up feel­ing like they knew their un­cle, al­though they were born after he died.

“There prob­a­bly hasn’t been a day when I haven’t cried,” Moren said. The tears, she said, are for “fam­ily and the loss they felt and not hav­ing any clo­sure.”

Cre­mean’s death wasn’t the first pro­found loss for his fam­ily. One of his three younger sis­ters died of po­lio as a child be­fore he was killed in Oahu at age 21.

The grief the fam­ily ex­peri-

enced lin­gered and was passed on. The pain en­dures nearly eight decades later, but has been eased sig­nif­i­cantly with the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of Cre­mean’s re­mains.

“It’s just an amaz­ing thing that has hap­pened, to be lost and found, and now every­one will have clo­sure,” niece Elaine Hol­i­day said. “I think my mother al­ways won­dered, ‘Did he sur­vive and was in­jured and didn’t re­mem­ber who he was?’ You know there’s al­ways that doubt in your mind that maybe he didn’t go down in the ship.”

That sis­ter also clung to some­thing Cre­mean once told her – that if he was ever se­ri­ously in­jured in com­bat, he wouldn’t re­turn home.

“That was kind of al­ways in the back of my mother’s mind that he might be alive,” Spradlin said. “That lit­tle hope.”

Cor­re­spon­dence from the mil­i­tary after Pearl Har­bor left the fam­ily in limbo for months. Cre­mean’s par­ents first re­ceived a tele­gram 17 days after the at­tack, on Christ­mas Eve, re­port­ing Cre­mean miss­ing, be­fore re­ceiv­ing an­other six days later in­cor­rectly list­ing him as a sur­vivor. It was not un­til the end of Fe­bru­ary, nearly three months after the bomb­ing, that his par­ents were told by the Ma­rine Corps that their only son had been killed.

Among the agony: The fam­ily re­ceived Christ­mas presents from Cre­mean in the mail after he was killed, in­clud­ing a grass hula skirt, hand­ker­chiefs and a sailor doll.

Fam­ily de­scribed him as play­ful, happy, “kind of a char­ac­ter,” and a young leader in his com­mu­nity. He grew up in Colorado, but will be laid to rest in Madera, where his par­ents moved after World War II, be­cause that’s where they are buried.

IDEN­TI­FY­ING RE­MAINS

Cre­mean was one of 14 Marines killed while work­ing se­cu­rity on the USS Ok­la­homa, and among 429 ca­su­al­ties on that ship, said Hat­tie John­son, head of the POW/MIA sec­tion of the Ma­rine Corps’ ca­su­al­ties of­fice.

Only three Marines on that ship were iden­ti­fied im­me­di­ately after the at­tack, John­son said. The rest were in­terred in two ceme­ter­ies on Hawaii with as many as 400 other “un­knowns” from the USS Ok­la­homa un­til 1947, when the re­mains were ex­humed and 35 more men were iden­ti­fied, John­son said. The rest were in­terred a sec­ond time at the Na­tional Me­mo­rial Ceme­tery of the Pa­cific on Oahu, known by many as “the punch­bowl.”

It wasn’t un­til 2003 that one cas­ket, thought to con­tain the re­mains of five men, was dis­in­terred. It ended up con­tain­ing par­tial re­mains of nearly 100 peo­ple, John­son said. That dis­cov­ery de­layed plans and put the mil­i­tary in ne­go­ti­a­tions about what to do next. The mil­i­tary fo­cused on that one cas­ket un­til clear­ance was given in 2015 to ex­hume the re­main­ing 62 cas­kets. So far, four of the 11 un­known Marines have been iden­ti­fied, and more than 100 from the Navy, John­son said.

Cre­mean’s fam­ily pro­vided DNA in 2001, be­fore the first cas­ket was re­moved. John­son said a DNA match was first made for Cre­mean in 2015, but the mil­i­tary didn’t con­tact the fam­ily un­til Au­gust, after all his re­mains had been iden­ti­fied, and ad­di­tional re­search was done to as­sure his iden­tify, such as ref­er­enc­ing his­tor­i­cal mil­i­tary and den­tal records.

John­son vis­ited Cre­mean’s fam­ily in Madera in Oc­to­ber to present the find­ings of that anal­y­sis. See­ing pho­tos of his bones and teeth, in­di­cat­ing he was in­jured by a tor­pedo blast, gave Spradlin some peace that her un­cle didn’t suf­fer long.

“There were men on the Ok­la­homa that were alive, and peo­ple could hear them bang­ing on the bot­tom of the ship for sev­eral days (trapped in the ves­sel),” Spradlin said. “It al­ways both­ered me that it could have been Un­cle Jack, but that wasn’t him.”

It means a lot to his three nieces, three neph­ews, and one sur­viv­ing brother-in-law to now have a head­stone for Cre­mean that they can visit in Madera to pay their re­spects.

“This gives us real clo­sure,” Fresno VA hospi­tal Te­soro Viejo Hol­i­day said. “We know ex­actly where he is, and we’re so happy he’ll be by his par­ents.”

Spe­cial to The Bee

Alva Jack­son “Jack” Cre­mean en­listed in July 1940 and was killed in the bomb­ing of Pearl Har­bor on Dec. 7, 1941.

CRAIG KOHLRUSS ck­[email protected]­nobee.com

A jet taxis be­low a wa­ter can­non salute by a pair of Fresno-Yosemite In­ter­na­tional Air­port’s air­craft res­cue fire­fight­ing trucks at the air­port on Wed­nes­day. The jet was car­ry­ing the re­mains of U.S. Ma­rine Alva Jack­son “Jack” Cre­mean, who was killed aboard the USS Ok­la­homa dur­ing the Pearl Har­bor at­tack. 2 p.m. Fri­day, Dec. 7 at Ar­bor Vi­tae Ceme­tery, 1301 Roberts Ave., Madera On the 77th an­niver­sary of the at­tack on Pearl Har­bor, pub­lic cer­e­monies are planned in the cen­tral San Joaquin Val­ley at 9:55 a.m. (when the at­tacks ended in 1941) in­clud­ing:

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