The remains of two Navy sailors who died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 80 years ago have been identified and returned to their families for burial.
Veterans and families lined the route to the cemetery on Monday to remember Robert Bailey, a 21-year-old shipfitter in the Navy who was among the 429 killed on the USS Oklahoma. He was laid to rest next to those of his parents and brother on Memorial Day.
He was on the battleship on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, after trading places with an officer so he could be on board when his older brother arrived, said his niece, Marilyn Giere, of Celina.
Willis Bailey survived the attack that left 2,403 Americans dead and launched the United States into World War II, but he was always burdened by the guilt of surviving and knowing his brother was on the ship to be with him, Giere told the Daily Standard of Celina.
Robert Bailey had been listed as missing until this past January. His remains were identified through DNA testing as part of a federal Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency effort to identify those who were recovered from the USS Oklahoma.
Bailey, who grew up in Coldwater, was the first Mercer County resident to die in World War II, said Charlie Koesters, senior vice commander of the Coldwater Veterans of Foreign War Post.
Remains of Utah sailor killed at Pearl Harbor to return home
DELTA, Utah — The remains of a Navy sailor who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor have returned to Salt Lake City, and a ceremony at his home in Delta is scheduled, officials said.
Navy Radioman 3rd Class Theodore Q. Jensen, 22, of Delta was identified in December 2020 using dental and anthropological analysis, KSTU-TV reported. He was aboard the USS Oklahoma when it was attacked by Japanese aircraft, killing more than 400 crewmen, including Jensen.
Jensen was buried with the other soldiers and sailors, and in 2015, the Navy started exhuming and identifying them, officials said.
“His buddies drove back to my mom and said as he got off the ship, he said, ‘Oh, I forgot my camera,’” said Sharon Senecal, Jensen’s niece. “And that was the last they saw of him.”
It took eight weeks for the Navy to declare Jensen missing and eight years to declare him dead. But his family did not lose hope of bringing him home to Delta, about 120 miles (193.12 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City.
Jensen’s mother died when he was 6 years old, so he grew up with extended family members.
“I’m excited to have him back in Utah and be buried back in Delta where he belongs,” said Margaret Ribeek, Jensen’s niece. “My grandfather always wanted him home.”