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Ralph C. Battles
Ralph C. Battles (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency)

BOAZ, Ala. (Tribune News Service) — Nearly 80 years after perishing at Pearl Harbor, the remains of an Alabama sailor are returning home to be buried.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Navy Fireman 2nd Class Ralph C. Battles, 25, of Boaz, was accounted for on Feb. 12 following testing.

He is scheduled to be buried in Boaz on Aug. 28.

Battles was one of the more than 2,000 Americans killed in the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

On that day, Battles was assigned to the battleship U.S.S. Oklahoma, moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. As Japanese aircraft attacked, the Oklahoma sank in the first 10 minutes after multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. It is not known where Battles was on board the ship, which saw 429 crewmen die.

Following the battle, through June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the crew, which were then interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries in Hawaii.

In September 1947, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks for possible identification. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identity of 35 men from the Oklahoma at that time.

The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. A military board in 1949 classified those who could not be identified, which included Battles, as non-recoverable.

Then, in 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the unknown remains of U.S.S. Oklahoma sailors for analysis. To identify Battles’ remains, scientists used anthropological analysis, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis.

Battles’ name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

In 2018, the remains of a sailor from Athens who died at Pearl Harbor on the Oklahoma were also accounted for.

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