A 27-year-old sailor who was killed on the USS Oklahoma 77 years ago has finally returned home to be buried on Friday, the anniversary of the attack.
Carl David Dorr — who enlisted in the Navy right out of high school and was one of 429 sailors and Marines killed on board the ship after it sunk in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — was greeted by 15 relatives on the tarmac of South Carolina’s Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, according to CNN.
The news outlet reported only 35 people were originally identified after the attack, but the Defense Department has worked to exhume the other bodies and used modern technology to give other families closure.
Carl’s 70-year-old nephew Thomas Dorr, who lives in St. Johns, Florida, told CNN about the moment the coffin was lowered from the plane into the hearse. “There was nothing but dead silence,” he said. “I knew that what I was experiencing was history.”
For more than seven decades, Dorr remained an “unknown” at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. In 2009, his family gave the Defense Department his DNA, said Thomas
Throughout the years, his mother kept a photograph of her son in the living room “so she could keep an eye on him,” said Thomas, adding that she looked at it every day.
Another nephew, Charles Dorr Howard, told WYFF, that “he was missing in action. That’s all they knew for years. My grandfather spent a good half of his life trying to find out what happened to his son. It’s up to us as the last Dorr family to receive Carl back and have him buried as close to his parents as we possibly could.”
Before Carl’s death, he sent his parents cards from where he was stationed and requested them to be put in a chest he built with his father. After he died, Thomas said his family searched for that chest for 30 years, but had no luck.
It was finally found in 1998 containing hundreds of letters, as well as USS Oklahoma menus from 1941, Carl’s military ID and a picture of the USS Oklahoma that was turned into a post card.
Thomas recalls his father crying over the chest, and said that same year the family held a service for him.
“It was a memorial service with the family to accept the fact that we actually were remembering his presence on earth,” he said.
On Wednesday, 20 years after that service, the family — which rode in three limos and a hearse — headed to a funeral home in Greenville, as law enforcement and fire officials gave a salute while directing traffic.
“It’s the end of a story. He lived his life. He died for his country. He’s come home. The story ends now,” Thomas said. “But he will always be remembered.”