Sailor Finally Laid to Rest 8 Decades After Pearl Harbor

Forensic testing led to the identification of Bert Jacobson and nearly 400 others
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 14, 2022 4:43 PM CDT
Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Identified, Buried in Arlington
This April 1938 photo shows the USS Oklahoma. Sailor Herbert "Bert" Jacobson, 21, from Grayslake, Ill., was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday—more than 80 years after he was killed in the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor.   (AP Photo/File)

A 21-year-old sailor was laid to rest Tuesday following a decadeslong effort to identify remains pulled from Pearl Harbor, more than 80 years after he was killed in the attack that propelled the United States into World War II. Per the AP, members of Herbert "Bert" Jacobson's family waited all their lives to attend a memorial for the young man they knew about but never met. Jacobson was among the more than 400 sailors and Marines killed on the USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941. The casket containing his remains was carried Tuesday morning on a horse-drawn caisson led by a military escort before his burial at Arlington National Cemetery. "This has kind of been an unsolved mystery, and it gives us closure to finally know what happened to Bert," said Brad McDonald, a nephew.

The service was the latest chapter in the story of the man from Grayslake, Ill., for the family that never had a body to bury, and the scientific quest to put names to the remains of hundreds of personnel from the battleship who lay buried anonymously for decades in a dormant volcanic crater near Pearl Harbor. The battleship remained submerged for two years before bodies were recovered. A few years later, the graves of men on the Oklahoma were reopened in the hopes that dental records might identify them. But 27 sets of remains weren't identified and had to be reinterred at the crater, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, commonly known as the Punchbowl.

Another effort to identify about 100 sets of remains came up empty in 2003. Then, in 2015, the Department of Defense announced plans to exhume the remains again and use advanced forms of forensic testing. That effort, Project Oklahoma, has led to the identification of 355 men—including Jacobson—who were killed when their ship was hit by at least nine torpedoes. That leaves 33 sets of remains still to be identified. Jacobson's body was recovered in 2019, but the service was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (More Pearl Harbor attack stories.)

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