Sailor killed at Pearl Harbor finally interred at Blandford Cemetery in Virginia

U.S. sailors fold the American flag over the remains of a sailor during a burial on July 12, 2017, in Honolulu.


By JOHN ADAM | The Progress-Index, Petersburg, Va. (Tribune News Service) | Published: September 9, 2017

PETERSBURG, Va. — The beautiful weather created a peaceful, solemn scene at Blandford Cemetery on Friday morning, as the family of Navy Ensign William Manley Thompson finally got to lay their relative to rest after 76 years.

Thompson was stationed on the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor when the naval station was bombed by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. The young soldier, who was just 21 years-old, was killed in the attack.

Thompson's remains were unidentifiable for many years, but thanks to new DNA technology, his body could be identified, and his family got to give him a proper burial in the family plot at Blandford Cemetery.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would happen," said Nancy Rubé, who is Thompson's niece. "But it's closure for the family. Certainly for my mother and my grandmother, they would be thrilled."

Rubé and her brother gave their DNA samples to the Navy, who used them to identify Thompson's remains. The process took numerous years to complete.

"We received a phone call saying he had been identified; it was quite a shock," said Rubé.

Thompson's family gathered at Blandford Cemetery to give him a proper military burial, complete with a 21-gun salute. A six-man flag fold team made up of Navy members from Richmond carried Thompson's casket out of the hearse, before folding the flag that had been draped over Thompson's casket. The team then presented the flag to Rear Adm. Katherine McCabe, who then presented it to Rubé.

"It's an incredible honor to enable this family to have this kind of closure," said McCabe.

Another Navy officer then sounded taps.

Members from local American Legion posts and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts came to show their support as well.

Thompson will be buried next to his sister and parents. The family, which originally hails from Petersburg, has over ten members buried at Blandford.

Thompson joined the Navy immediately after graduating from the University of North Carolina. He had been stationed in Pearl Harbor for only a month when the attack occurred.

Relatives described Thompson as a good-looking, intelligent young ensign.

"It was all gone in a flash," said Elena Thompson, whose husband is William Thompson's nephew. "And it happened to so many families."

Thompson's status will officially be changed from Missing in Action, to Killed in Action. His awards include an American Campaign Medal, World War Two Victory Medal, and a Purple Heart.

©2017 The Progress-Index, Petersburg, Va.
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