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Remains of San Diego sailor killed on battleship Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor are identified

Andrew Dyer, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

SAN DIEGO -- The remains of a sailor killed aboard the battleship Oklahoma during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor have been identified, the Pentagon announced this week.

Chief Pharmacist's Mate James T. Cheshire of San Diego was killed Dec. 7, 1941. He was 40.

The Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo strikes from Japanese aircraft as it sat moored on Battleship Row at Ford Island that Sunday morning. According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, the ship was hit by eight torpedoes during the first 10 minutes of the attack. It capsized and sank soon after, killing 429 crewmen.

"After exhaustive search it has been found impossible to locate your husband James Thomas Cheshire chief pharmacist's mate US Navy and he has therefore been officially declared to have lost his life in the service of his country as of December Seventh Nineteen Forty One," read the telegram from Rear Adm. Randall Jacobs to Marion Cheshire on Jan. 30, 1942. "The Department expresses to you its sincerest sympathy."

All the family had was some medals and a monogrammed pen salvaged from the ship when it was righted a year later.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency's mission, according to its website, is to "provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation."

In Cheshire's case, that accounting took 76 years.

According to the DPAA, all remains were recovered from the wreckage by 1944, but only those of 35 individuals were identifiable at the time.

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The unidentified remains were buried in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu in 1949. In April 2015, they were disinterred for DNA analysis.

The DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner also examined anthropological and circumstantial evidence.

The Pentagon said it notified the family when it identified Cheshire on Sept. 10.

DPAA said in a statement that of the 72,751 unaccounted dead from World War II, about 26,000 are considered possibly recoverable.

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