Remains of Pearl Harbor casualty identified as Alabama sailor

By IVANA HRYNKIW | Alabama Media Group, Birmingham | Published: September 5, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — A sailor who was killed at Pearl Harbor in the 1941 attack has been identified as a man from Bessemer, Alabama.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency at the Pentagon announced Thursday that the remains of Navy Mess Attendant 1st Class Johnnie C. Laurie, 25, of Bessemer, were identified last month.

Laurie signed up for the Navy in Alabama and was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941. The battleship was attacked by Japanese aircraft, and the Oklahoma capsized after sustaining multiple torpedo strikes. The attack killed 429 crewmen.

According to the Pentagon, from December 1941 to June 1944 Navy personnel worked to recover the remains of the ship’s crewmen. Those remains were then buried at two cemeteries but disinterred in September 1947 and moved to the Central Identification Laboratory by the staff of the American Graves Registration Service. At the time, the lab was only able to confirm the identities of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma.

The service buried the 46 unidentified remains in plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, also known as the “Punchbowl.” In 1949 a military board classified those unidentified bodies, including Laurie’s, as “non-recoverable."

Between June and November 2015, the DPAA exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the cemetery for analysis, according to the Pentagon’s news release. Scientists from the group used dental and anthropological analysis, along with other evidence and DNA methods, to identify the remains.

“Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,671 still unaccounted for from World War II, of which approximately 30,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable. Laurie’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for," the news release stated.

“DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of the Navy for their partnership in this mission,” it added.

Laurie will be buried October 19 in Montevallo.

The announcement about Laurie comes a year after another Alabama man was identified as being killed in the Pearl Harbor attack. That solider was identified as Navy Water Tender second Class Edgar Gross and was also aboard the USS Oklahoma.

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