More than 80 years after the United States was killed in an attack that led to World War II, a 21-year-old sailor will be rested on Tuesday after a decades-long effort to identify the remains pulled from Pearl Harbor .
The family members of Herbert “Bert” Jacobson have waited their whole lives to attend a memorial to the young man they knew but never met. Jacobson was among the more than 400 sailors and Marines killed on the USS Oklahoma during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during December 7, 1941.
The coffin containing his remains will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Brad McDonald, a nephew, said, “It’s kind of been an unsolved mystery and it gives us a chance to finally find out what happened to Burt, where he is and finally after he was listed as unknown.” Being laid to rest.” ,
Arlington’s service will be the latest chapter in the story of a man from the small northern Illinois town of Grayslake, a family that never had a body to bury when he was killed and the scientific quest to name the remains of hundreds of battleship personnel. , which remained anonymously buried for decades in a dormant volcanic crater near Pearl Harbor.
The story of waiting.
The battleship remained submerged for two years, then was rerouted and the bodies were recovered. A few years later, the men’s graves on Oklahoma were reopened in the hope that dental records might lead to their names.
But the 27 sets of remains were not identified and had to be reburied at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Crater, Honolulu, commonly known as Punchbowl. Another attempt to identify about 100 sets of remains came up empty in 2003.
In 2015, the Defense Department announced plans to retrieve the remains. “We now have the ability to perform forensic examination of these remains and produce identification,” Debra Prince Zini, a forensic anthropologist and laboratory manager at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Hawaii, told the Associated Press at the time.
This gave new hope to members of the Jacobson family, who were disappointed with each unsuccessful attempt.
He told the AP that Jacobson’s mother cried every December 7, at least partly because she never knew where he was.
“He always hoped the phone would ring and it would be Burt,” McDonald said. A 2015 effort, Project Oklahoma, has identified 355 men—including Jacobson—who were killed when their ship was hit by at least nine torpedoes.
This leaves 33 sets of residues yet to be identified.
To mark the 80th anniversary of the attack, those unidentified remains were re-established, said Gene Hughes, a public affairs officer with the Naval Personnel Command.
She has worked with the families of those killed in Oklahoma, including relatives of Jacobson.
For Jacobson’s family, any hope they would know what happened on December 7, 1941, faded long ago.
The only thing they knew from talking to Jacobson’s shipyards was that he had come off duty after several hours leading the men to shore.
McDonald said that a good friend of his uncle’s from the Navy said he was pretty sure Jacobson “was sleeping in his bunk and died before he knew the war was going on. But we really do not know.”
This left one final question: What happened to Burt Jacobson’s body? The answer came in 2019, when McDonald’s said the family had been informed that Jacobson’s remains had been identified.
Hoping that the burial could happen next year, they were forced to wait in large part because COVID-19 The pandemic delayed most ceremonies, including funerals.
Now, they are getting the closure that Jacobson’s parents and other family members never had. “I wish they could see it,”
McDonald said of his grandparents, parents, and others. For him, seeing the uncle he never met, taking his place in Arlington is particularly important. “When Burt joined the Navy, he was an orphan from South Dakota,” McDonald said.
“When they got a weekend pass, Burt took it home and the orphan met his (Burt’s) younger sister.” Orville McDonald and Norma Jacobson dated and later married, giving McDonald’s favorite ending to that story.
“That orphan was my father, and Burt’s sister was my mother,” he said. “So, I wouldn’t be here without Burt.”