80 years after Pearl Harbor, veteran’s remains identified

About 80 years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a veteran who died during the attacks has had his remains identified. 

The remains of William Eugene Blanchard, who was killed at Pearl Harbor while serving on the USS Oklahoma, were identified through DNA testing conducted by an agency within the U.S. Department of Defense, the Idaho Statesman reported  Wednesday.

Blanchard was 24 when he was aboard the warship. It was moored at Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The battleship was hit by multiple torpedoes and 429 crewmen died.

According to his obituary, Blanchard was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal, American Defense Service Medal and World War II Victory Medal.

Since the 1950s, almost 400 sailors and Marines from the ship were buried without identification at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

In 2015, officials at the Department of Defense approved DNA testing for those buried. Until then, only six of the buried soldiers had been identified, according to the Department of Defense.

William Eugene Blanchard’s grandson, Chris Blanchard, said the soldier’s son and another family member provided DNA samples. The Department of Defense was able to identify William Eugene Blanchard’s legs, part of his pelvic bone and most of his skull.

“Then  in January, they called and said, ‘Yes, we’ve made a positive ID,’ ” Blanchard told the Statesman in a phone interview. “My first thought was, ‘What the heck? I mean, come on, it’s been 80 years now. Is this for real?'” 

Last summer, two other Pearl Harbor soldiers’ remains were identified and returned home — 23-year-old Navy Fireman First Class Hadley Heavin and 20-year-old Navy Coxswain Layton T. Banks. Like Blanchard, Banks was also assigned to the USS Oklahoma 

“Quite honestly, there are still family members of USS Oklahoma sailors and Marines who would like to know what happened to their loved ones or bring their loved ones home,” Sgt. 1st Class Sean Everette, public affairs officer for the Accounting Agency, told the Statesman. 

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