BESSEMER, Ala. (WIAT) — Decades after being killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the remains of a Bessemer man have finally been identified and will be returning back home to Alabama.
Earlier this month, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that Navy Mess Attendant 1st Class Johnnie C. Laurie of Bessemer had been accounted for. He was identified earlier this summer.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the 25-year-old Laurie was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was anchored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits and quickly capsized, resulting in the deaths of 429 men, including Laurie.
From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries.
In September 1947, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. At the time, the staff were only able to identify 35 men from the USS Oklahoma, burying the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as “The Punchbowl” in Honolulu. Those who could not be identified, including Laurie, were classified as “non-recoverable.”
In 2015, DPAA personnel began to exhume the unidentified USS Oklahoma crew remains from the Punchbowl for analysis.
“To identify Laurie’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.” a release from the DPAA stated. “Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA analysis.”
Laurie will be buried Oct. 19 in Montevallo.