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Eighty Years After Pearl Harbor, One of the Biggest Mysteries of the Attack Has Been Solved

  Eighty years after he became a victim of the attack on Pearl Harbor, sailor Jesus Garcia of the USS Oklahoma has finally come home. Thanks...

 Eighty years after he became a victim of the attack on Pearl Harbor, sailor Jesus Garcia of the USS Oklahoma has finally come home.

Thanks to what is known as the USS Oklahoma Project, remains of Garcia, as with many others who died that day, were identified in a long, painstaking process, according to Politico.

“It was a milestone accomplishment for the laboratory. We’ve identified over 90 percent of these individuals,” said John Byrd, director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii.

The USS Oklahoma was sunk in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack, with about half of the 864 crew members trapped after it sunk. Garcia, a Mess Attendant 2nd Class, was among them. The ship was raised in 1942, with the remains of those aboard put in mass graves in Hawaii in 1943.

In 1947, efforts were made using dental records and dog tags to identify the disinterred remains of those who perished on the Oklahoma. Thirty-five identifications were made.

The remains of 391 other sailors were buried in 61 caskets in Hawaii’s National Military Cemetery of the Pacific.

Almost 60 years later, veteran Ray Emory, who was aboard the USS Honolulu that fateful day, persuaded the military to exhume one casket in hopes of identifying five sets of remains. DNA found that the casket had the remains of 94 men.

“That was when we really knew how commingled they would be and that if we wanted to do more identification, we would really need all of the remains from Oklahoma,” said Carrie LeGarde, the lead anthropologist overseeing the project in Omaha, Nebraska.

In 2009, researchers began gathering DNA from relatives of the slain. In 2015, the Defense Department gave the final go-ahead to exhume the remains of the unknown dead.

But it was not easy. Shared ancestral lines meant that using mitochondrial DNA from the mothers of the victims would not be enough.

One DNA sequence matched 25 victims.

“So, 25 people all have that same mitochondrial DNA, and many of those were about the same height and age,” explained LeGarde. “So, the anthropologists were kind of stuck again. What do we do next?”

What they did was collect more DNA from the paternal line of the victims.

“If we didn’t have that DNA, we wouldn’t be able to do what we have done,” ” LeGarde explained.

But they did, allowing Jesus Garcia to be buried on Oct. 6 at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego after a burial Mass at Santa Sophia Catholic Church in Spring Valley, California.

“I’m so glad they did this for us,” said Lilla Garcia, a sister-in-law of Jesus Garcia who attended his funeral. “We never expected that he was going to come [home].”

Gilbert Nadeau, 95, attended Garcia’s funeral and was the only World War II veteran in attendance.

“It’s amazing, after all these years, they finally identified him and brought him home,” Nadeau, who served on several other ships said. “It will never happen again if this country goes to hell.”

“After 80 years, their stories will finally be told,” said Eugene Hughes, who has been the Navy’s liaison with the families.

“They served with honor, and their families have sacrificed for so long.”

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