Remains of 24-Year-Old Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Identified 80 Years Later Thanks to DNA Testing

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Twiford Funeral Homes

Nearly eight decades after 24-year-old William Eugene Blanchard was killed during Japan's surprise attack against the United States at Pearl Harbor, his remains have finally been identified.

Blanchard was killed along with 2,403 other U.S. military personnel on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese army attacked the Pearl Harbor U.S. naval base in Hawaii amid the Second World War.

Blanchard, according to an obituary, served as a Boilermaker 1st Class aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma, which capsized after being hit by multiple torpedoes. Nearly 430 USS Oklahoma crewmen died in the attack.

Almost 80 years after his death, Blanchard's remains were identified using DNA testing in January, allowing his family to give him a proper memorial in his honor.

The identification was made by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

The agency works within the U.S. Department of Defense to find U.S. prisoners of war or others who are listed as missing in action, the Idaho Statesman reported.

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US Navy/Interim Archives/Getty

Chris Blanchard, Blanchard's grandson, told the outlet the family was told a number of years ago the agency was attempting to identify his paternal grandfather's remains. Two family members provided DNA samples to help in the effort.

"In January, they called and said, 'Yes, we've made a positive ID,' " Chris recalled to the outlet. "My first thought was, 'What the heck? I mean, come on, it's been 80 years now. Is this for real?' "

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Though they never knew their grandfather, Chris said he and his brother served in the Navy after being inspired by him and their maternal grandfather, who was a sailor. His sister is also a veteran, having served in the U.S. Army.

"I haven't thought about a single adjective, but I don't know, I guess it's really, I'm really proud of so many things," he told the Idaho Statesman of his grandfather.

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Because Chris' father was only 6 months old when the attacks on Pearl Harbor occurred, he never had the chance to know him.

But thanks to a book the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency created that collected everything they knew about Blanchard, the family was able to get additional insight into someone who influenced their lives long after his death.

"My dad for the first time ever really has a sense of who his dad was, and it's been really moving, because frankly I never expected that," Chris told the Idaho Statesman.

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

Funeral services with military honors will be held on June 7 in North Carolina.