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Seaman 1st Class David Franklin Tidball was 20 years old and serving on the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.

Seaman 1st Class David Franklin Tidball was 20 years old and serving on the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency)

INDEPENDENCE, Iowa (Tribune News Service) — Seaman 1st Class David Franklin Tidball came home Saturday, more than 80 years after his death at Pearl Harbor.

Tidball, a 20-year-old when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, was laid to rest in a family plot at Mount Hope Cemetery next to his parents, Raymon and Isabell. His remains were identified last year by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Full military honors were performed during the graveside service, including a 21-gun salute conducted by Independence’s Sheehan-Tidball American Legion Post #30, which is named for him. Family members, descendants of Tidball’s siblings, filled seats under a canopy next to the grave.

“This isn’t just a day about a family,” said Capt. Mark Dieter, a Wisconsin-based military chaplain who led the graveside service. “This is about our nation’s history.”

The ceremony’s significance was not lost on dozens of attendees who stood among the headstones near the grave.

A hearse bearing his casket was escorted by nearly 60 motorcyclists wearing vests and patches for organizations like the Combat Veterans Association or AMVETS. Six sailors in dress white uniforms hoisted the flag-draped casket out of the hearse as veterans organization members among the crowd of onlookers stood at attention. There were 10 different American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts represented, according to Jesup veteran Fritz Keis.

“What a beautiful day we have been given to gather some 80 years after Seaman David Tidball died on the USS Oklahoma,” said Dieter before offering a prayer at the start of the service. He recounted how Tidball grew up in Independence, joining the high school band and becoming an Eagle Scout prior to graduating in 1938. The young man continued his education by earning a community college degree.

“But when duty called, he signed up to join the U.S. Navy. The U.S. Navy still loves kids from the Midwest,” said Dieter, a native Iowan who grew up in Vinton. “He arrived about a year before Pearl Harbor and so he would have become very familiar with his shipmates.”

On the day of the attack, Dieter said two torpedoes first hit the Oklahoma but didn’t penetrate the hull. There were more incoming torpedoes “within minutes” that broke the hull. The ship “began to roll port side,” he said, temporarily getting lodged sideways.

“Friends, it only took 12½ minutes for the Oklahoma to capsize. It must have been the most terrifying 12½ minutes of Seaman Tidball’s life,” said Dieter.

On the USS Oklahoma alone, 429 crewmen died. During post-war identification efforts, 361 of 394 previously unaccounted for personnel were individually identified. The other 33 people were accounted for via group identification.

Tidball’s remains were positively identified last year after a process that started nearly two decades ago. After the disinterment of a single casket of “unknown” USS Oklahoma remains, family reference DNA samples were gathered from relatives of every missing person aboard the ship during the attack.

He isn’t the only Iowan who was aboard the ship during the attack to be buried in recent days, according to media reports. Harry Nichols, store keeper third class, was buried in a Sioux City cemetery Friday. His remains were identified in 2020, but services were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dieter said the freedoms people have in the United States “were paid for with young lives like David, who willingly raised his hand to serve his country and gave all that he could.” He noted Tidball had dreams and hopes for his future.

“It all ended on Dec. 7, 1941. And, friends, today as we pay honor to David’s life, the greatest error we can make is to not be grateful,” said Dieter.

“David’s folks would be proud today,” he added. “I can say 80 years later we are proud of Seaman Tidball.”

(c)2022 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa)

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