South Carolina

77 years after Pearl Harbor attack, slain SC sailor is finally home

Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy

Watch historical footage of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the sinking of the USS Arizona, Dec. 7, 1941.
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Watch historical footage of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the sinking of the USS Arizona, Dec. 7, 1941.

Nearly 80 years after a South Carolina sailor was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, his remains have returned home and he will be laid to rest Friday.

Navy Fireman 2nd Class Carl D. Dorr, 27, of Anderson, was accounted for July 25, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Dorr was among 429 crewmen aboard the USS Oklahoma who died when the ship took multiple torpedo hits during the attack, causing it to capsize.

John Howard, 68, was at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport on Wednesday night when the American flag-draped casket carrying his uncle’s remains was unloaded from the plane.

“It’s a homecoming that he never experienced before,” Howard told The State. “His other brothers and sisters — no one experienced a homecoming for Carl, even if it had been in a casket.”

The S.C. Highway Patrol and more than 40 motorcycles with the Patriot Guard Riders escorted Dorr’s remains to Thomas McAfee Funeral Home Northwest Chapel, according to manager John Kelly. After a viewing and memorial service Friday morning, Dorr will be buried with full military honors at Graceland Cemetery West — 77 years to the day after he died.

“I remember the picture my grandmother had of Carl on her table there in the living room,” recalled Howard, who was born nine years after his uncle died. “She raised me from the time I was a baby until school age because my mother worked.”

In a time long before cellphones, the Internet and 24-hour cable news, Howard said that even after his grandparents learned of the attack, it took “quite a while” for his them to find out their son had been killed.

“That was a very difficult time in their lives, not knowing what happened to him,” he said. “Fearing the worst, of course. ... I know that was something they never got over.”

The surprise attack by the Japanese killed more than 2,300 people and launched the U.S. into World War II. More than 400,000 Americans died during the war, and to this day more than 72,000 are still unaccounted for, according to the accounting agency.

From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the crew from the USS Oklahoma, interring them in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries, according to a release the accounting agency. The remains of the casualties in the two cemeteries were disinterred in September 1947 and taken to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, where examiners were only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma.

Those who could not be identified, including Dorr, were classified by a military board in October 1949 as non-recoverable, according to the release. Those remains were interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, where they remained until April 2015, when the Secretary of Defense ordered the disinterment of unknowns associated with the USS Oklahoma.

Dorr’s remains were identified using DNA analysis, dental and anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence, according to the agency.

“You have to look at the sovereignty of God and the destiny of a family that we would be given the task of receiving his remains and paying tribute and honor to him,” Howard said. “When I think of what we ask our young people to do in defending our country, it just amazes me that we have such incredible patriots willing to do things that are just unthinkable and unbelievable to protect our freedom. I don’t want our citizens to forget about that. I don’t want that to slip away because someone is uninformed about what it costs to be an American citizen.”