Friday, September 05, 2008

Coming Home

More than seven decades after they shipped out, Navy Ensign Eldon Wyman and two of his shipmates are finally coming home.

Wyman was a junior officer on the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Moored outside the USS Maryland along battleship row, the Oklahoma took three torpedo hits in the early moments of the battle, and the vessel began to capsize. Two more torpedoes struck the battleship as it turned turtle, trapping hundreds of men below deck.

The body of Ensign Wyman, along those with Ensign Irvin A.R. Thompson and Fireman Second Class Lawrence Boxrucker, were recovered when the Oklahoma was righted, but they went unidentified for more than sixty years. In fact, of the 429 sailors and Marines who died on the ship, only 36 were identified after the attack. The rest were buried as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

But, as the AP reports, there has been a renewed focus on identifying Pearl Harbor remains in recent years, thanks to the research of Ray Emory, one of the Oklahoma's few surviving crew members. As a result of his efforts, Wyman's sister provided a DNA sample which was used to identify her brother, along with dental records.

As we've noted before, the U.S. is one of the few nations that devotes such resources to the location and identification of fallen military personnel, even decades after the battle. It's part of the special kinship that exists among those who wear--and have worn--the nation's uniform. For the millions of us who fall in that group, the term "You Are Not Forgotten" is more than a catch-phrase.


Kathleen Wyman--the sister who provided the DNA sample that resulted in the identification of her brother--is typical of the Greatest Generation. After Ensign Wyman perished at Pearl Harbor, she enlisted in the Navy WAVES and served for 22 years, retiring as a Lieutenant Commander in 1964.

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