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The remains of an Ohio man, who died in the Pearl Harbor attack, are buried


The remains of a sailor who died during the Pearl Harbor attack 81 years ago have finally come home to Ohio. Here's Chris Welter from our member station WYSO.


CHRIS WELTER, BYLINE: Joseph Hoffman died on the USS Oklahoma the morning of the December 7 Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. He was 24. His remains were initially recovered by divers but weren't identified as his until 2020 using DNA. John Moomaw is one of the next of kin. Hoffman was his great-great-uncle. Before the Navy contacted him last year, he didn't even know of Hoffman's existence. And other than distant cousins, Moomaw doesn't have any family left near the small village where Hoffman is being buried, but he still wanted to be there.

JOHN MOOMAW: It's a pretty big honor, so just thought it'd be the right thing to do, to come and check it out and be part of it.

WELTER: The Navy says it's common with the recently identified sailors from Pearl Harbor for the next of kin to be distant relatives. Those killed were often in their early 20s and didn't have children of their own. The last few years, the Navy has been doing hundreds of funerals like these.

Rear Admiral Gene Price was at the burial. He's grateful so many people came to welcome Hoffman home.

GENE PRICE: This is something that's seen as keeping faith with the mothers, the fathers, the sisters, the brothers, the wives, the boyfriends, girlfriends. It's a solemn vow that we make, and we hope we never have to keep it. But a promise made is a debt unpaid. And here we are. We're keeping our promise.

WELTER: In the Navy, Hoffman was a musician. He played the piano, the baritone and stringed instruments. Kristen Snitzer is also a musician - 1st class. She's stationed in Norfolk, Va., and traveled here to play "Taps" on a trumpet at the funeral. She's done several Pearl Harbor funerals this year, but this one is unique.

KRISTEN SNITZER: Yeah. This is pretty special. I'm active duty from the U.S. Fleet Forces Band. And everyone was real intrigued by this because Mr. Hoffman was a rated musician during the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

WELTER: Hoffman is now buried next to his mother, father, brother and sister. Thirty-three people from the USS Oklahoma still remain unidentified.

For NPR News, I'm Chris Welter in Greenfield, Ohio.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN SCOTT'S "ISADORA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Chris Welter
Chris Welter is an Environmental Reporter at WYSO through Report for America. In 2017, he completed the radio training program at WYSO's Eichelberger Center for Community Voices. Prior to joining the team at WYSO, he did boots-on-the-ground conservation work and policy research on land-use issues in southwest Ohio as a Miller Fellow with the Tecumseh Land Trust.