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Ceremony honors fallen heroes on board USS Oklahoma during Pearl Harbor attack

Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 10:46 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -Tuesday marked 80 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The attack claimed the lives of 22 Nebraskans, eight of them onboard the USS Oklahoma. A ceremony was held in Hawaii to remember those fallen heroes.

For the past six years, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has worked to identify fallen heroes on the USS Oklahoma. That work being done just down the road at the Offutt Air Force Base.

Families of fallen heroes gathered at the ceremony to remember lost loved ones from the USS Oklahoma ship.

“Like every sailor aboard Oklahoma that day they will be shipmates forever,” said Carlos Del Toro, United States Secretary of the Navy. “And they will forever hold a place in our hearts.”

The ship was hit during the attack, killing 429 crewmen on board, including the eight Nebraskans. In 2015, the Department of Defense started the USS Oklahoma Project in hopes of bringing closure to the families of unnamed crew members.

“We get teared up because after 80 years to bring those answers to those families,” said Dr. Tim McMahon, Director of DNA Operations. “And bring those fallen heroes home in name is what keeps us going in this mission.”

They used modern DNA analysis techniques, teaming up with Offutt Laboratories in Bellevue to identify those on board like Navy Fireman First Class Denis Hiskett, a sailor from Nebraska City.

“Fireman First Class Hiskett gave his life for the freedoms we are so fortunate to enjoy. He is an outstanding Nebraskan who represents the best our nation has to offer,” said Senator Deb Fischer.

Although they faced challenges with the lack of DNA reference from family members, they successfully named around 90% of the fallen heroes.

“This is a momentous occasion,” said Kelly McKeague, Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. “To state that it is a milestone in the Department of Defense history is not an understatement.”

During the project 396 of 429 crewmen were identified. Even though the DPAA concluded it’s efforts, leaving 33 unnamed heroes, they hope technology can help them identify others in future projects.

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