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Retired Chief Boatswain's Mate and Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory is rendered honors by the sideboys during a farewell ceremony held before he departs Hawaii to be with family on June 19, 2018. Emory was responsible for the identification of unknown service members killed in the attacks on Pearl Harbor who were buried in unnamed graves.

Retired Chief Boatswain's Mate and Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory is rendered honors by the sideboys during a farewell ceremony held before he departs Hawaii to be with family on June 19, 2018. Emory was responsible for the identification of unknown service members killed in the attacks on Pearl Harbor who were buried in unnamed graves. (Justin Pacheco/U.S. Navy)

Retired Chief Boatswain's Mate and Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory is rendered honors by the sideboys during a farewell ceremony held before he departs Hawaii to be with family on June 19, 2018. Emory was responsible for the identification of unknown service members killed in the attacks on Pearl Harbor who were buried in unnamed graves.

Retired Chief Boatswain's Mate and Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory is rendered honors by the sideboys during a farewell ceremony held before he departs Hawaii to be with family on June 19, 2018. Emory was responsible for the identification of unknown service members killed in the attacks on Pearl Harbor who were buried in unnamed graves. (Justin Pacheco/U.S. Navy)

Sailors render honors to retired Chief Boatswain's Mate and Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory during a farewell ceremony on June 19, 2018. held at Pearl Harbor before he departs Hawaii to be with family.

Sailors render honors to retired Chief Boatswain's Mate and Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory during a farewell ceremony on June 19, 2018. held at Pearl Harbor before he departs Hawaii to be with family. (Justin Pacheco/U.S. Navy)

Retired Chief Boatswain's Mate and Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory salutes the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS O'Kane on June 19, 2018. He was honored with a farewell ceremony at Pearl Harbor before he departs Hawaii to be with family.

Retired Chief Boatswain's Mate and Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory salutes the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS O'Kane on June 19, 2018. He was honored with a farewell ceremony at Pearl Harbor before he departs Hawaii to be with family. (Justin Pacheco/U.S. Navy)

Retired Chief Boatswain's Mate and Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory autographs a World War II G.I. Joe toy for the USS O'Kane Command Master Chief Jay’e Jerrod’e Bell during a farewell ceremony at Pearl Harbor on June 19, 2018. Emory was responsible for the identification of unknown service members killed in the attacks on Pearl Harbor who were buried in unnamed graves.

Retired Chief Boatswain's Mate and Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory autographs a World War II G.I. Joe toy for the USS O'Kane Command Master Chief Jay’e Jerrod’e Bell during a farewell ceremony at Pearl Harbor on June 19, 2018. Emory was responsible for the identification of unknown service members killed in the attacks on Pearl Harbor who were buried in unnamed graves. (Justin Pacheco/U.S. Navy)

Pearl Harbor attack survivor Ray Emory is driven through a Navy honor cordon, June 19, 2018, at Pier B-21, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, as other sailors man the rails of the USS Chung-Hoon in the background.

Pearl Harbor attack survivor Ray Emory is driven through a Navy honor cordon, June 19, 2018, at Pier B-21, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, as other sailors man the rails of the USS Chung-Hoon in the background. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

Ray Emory, who manned a .50-caliber machine gun aboard the USS Honolulu to defend against the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, speaks to sailors and family members gathered during a farewell ceremony, June 19, 2018, near where the ship was berthed in Pearl Harbor.

Ray Emory, who manned a .50-caliber machine gun aboard the USS Honolulu to defend against the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, speaks to sailors and family members gathered during a farewell ceremony, June 19, 2018, near where the ship was berthed in Pearl Harbor. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

With grandson Logan Emory beside him, Ray Emory wipes his eyes, June 19, 2018, while viewing the wreath-laden monument honoring the USS Honolulu, upon which the 97-year-old was serving during the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack by the Japanese.

With grandson Logan Emory beside him, Ray Emory wipes his eyes, June 19, 2018, while viewing the wreath-laden monument honoring the USS Honolulu, upon which the 97-year-old was serving during the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack by the Japanese. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii — For 76 years, Ray Emory has carried around a spent brass casing from the .50-caliber machine gun he fired at incoming Japanese planes the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

“I just reached over and picked it up and put it in my right hip pocket,” said the 97-year-old Emory, who was aboard the USS Honolulu docked at Pearl Harbor that day.

He doesn’t remember why he plucked it from the deck in the wake of the firefight, but he knows why he’s held onto it.

“It’s just part of me, I guess,” said the longtime Hawaii resident. “It’s just part of me.”

On Tuesday morning, 520 sailors in dress whites formed a dock-side honor cordon and ship-rail salute to Emory as he made a farewell visit to Bravo-21 pier where the USS Honolulu was berthed in 1941. He will soon depart for the mainland to live with family members after the death of his wife Jinny a month ago.

During a short ceremony, Emory told the sailors gathered there that he was ready to “head for the mainland and get my head screwed back on.”

He later told reporters, “As of right now, I just want to go and clear my mind — just go fishing.”

He was joined by his sister, grandson and other family members during the ceremony, which was held beside the base’s official monument honoring the USS Honolulu’s place in the historic attack.

Emory went on to serve on ships involved in the invasions of Tarawa, Kwajalein, Saipan, Guam, Leyte Gulf, Lingayen Gulf and Iwo Jima. He got out of the Navy in 1946 as a chief boatswain’s mate and later earned a degree in architecture.

Emory toiled for years to identify the remains of servicemembers who died aboard the USS Oklahoma during the Dec. 7 Japanese attack and were buried as “unknowns” in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, also known as the Punchbowl.

He lobbied to have the remains exhumed and scientifically identified.

“Ray fought and fought hard,” Jim Taylor, Pearl Harbor survivor liaison to Navy Region Hawaii, told the audience.

Emory had been faced with “a lot of hardheaded people who were against him” in his effort to identify the unknowns, Taylor said.

In the past few years, most of the unknown graves have been exhumed and transferred to the lab at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency at the joint base for identification.

“Over 100 unknowns have been identified over here at the lab and returned to the Punchbowl with the proper name markers or to the mainland,” Taylor said.

“Ray, you’re the man who did it, nobody else,” Taylor said. “If it wasn’t for you, it would have never been done.”

Taylor presented Emory with a shadowbox holding an official POW-MIA flag.

“The bottom line is, you are not forgotten,” Taylor said. “And all those 100 people that you have personally been involved in identifying, they were not forgotten.”

Emory was visibly moved at several points during the honor cordon and ceremony, which had been a surprise to him.

“A couple weeks ago, when I decided probably to head for the mainland, there was one thing I would like to do,” he said. “I would like to go back down, just drop off at Pier 21 and say goodbye. Well, I’m saying goodbye, but I didn’t expect all these people to be here. Thank you very, very, very much.”

“Hawaii’s going to miss him,” Taylor said after the ceremony.

olson.wyatt@stripes.com Twitter: @WyattWOlson

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Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.

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