LA CROSSE, Wis. — The remains of a popular Navy seaman who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 80 years ago are being returned to Wisconsin for burial, his family said.
A funeral service will be held May 18 in La Crosse for Navy Seaman 1st Class George Naegle, the La Crosse Tribune reported. He will be buried in the St. Joseph Mausoleum in Catholic Cemetery, where his parents were laid to rest.
"I am grateful that he is returning to La Crosse, and that he will have a funeral Mass and burial here after all these years," said Naegle's niece, Mary Ann Lyden, who was only 5 years old when he died. "I'm happy that he's finally going to be home."
Lyden said she heard stories about how he was "a good guy" who had lots of friends.
He graduated from Central High School in 1938 and enlisted in the Navy the following year. The 22-year-old was stationed on the battleship Oklahoma during World War II when it was attacked by Japanese planes on Dec. 7, 1941.
The attacked resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, who were interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries. Many of the remains were transferred in 1947 to the Central Identification Laboratory, where staff were only able to confirm the identities of 35 men. The unidentified remains were then buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
The deputy secretary of defense in 2015 launched an initiative to identify the unknown remains.
Lyden said the U.S. Defense Department contacted her family years ago to get DNA samples to identify his remains. The department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced in September that it had identified her uncle’s remains through DNA, dental and anthropological analysis.