Remains of Georgian killed in Pearl Harbor attack returning to mainland

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Sailor aboard USS Oklahoma finally identified

After a 79-year wait, the remains of William E. Blanchard, a Georgian killed in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, are coming home.

The body of the sailor who died when he was 24 years old finally has been identified, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Friday morning. Blanchard — from Tignall, a tiny community east of Athens — will be buried June 7 in North Carolina.

ExploreRead and sign the online guestbook for Boilermaker 1st Class William Eugene Blanchard

That leaves just one unidentified Georgia service member who died in the surprise attack that drew the United States into the war — Walter B. Manning, who was Blanchard’s shipmate on the U.S.S. Oklahoma. The battleship was hit with multiple torpedoes from Japanese planes and sank quickly, taking 429 crew members down with it.

More than 2.400 Americans died at Pearl Harbor. Hundreds were unidentified when they were buried in Hawaii. The Pentagon has made several attempts over the decades to identify them. Improved forensics has helped.

Kelly McKeague, a Georgia Tech graduate who heads up the agency’s efforts, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a 2019 interview that returning American soldiers to families is “a moral and sacred obligation we made to them when we sent them off to war.”

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Walter B. Manning, who was Blanchard’s shipmate on the U.S.S. Oklahoma when the Pearl Harbor attack took place, is the last Georgian whose remains have not been identified and returned home.
Walter B. Manning, who was Blanchard’s shipmate on the U.S.S. Oklahoma when the Pearl Harbor attack took place, is the last Georgian whose remains have not been identified and returned home.

In a recent push to connect remains to names, the department identified Georgians John M. Donald from Cherokee County in 2018; Archie Callahan Jr. from Atlanta in 2017; and Julian B. Jordan of southwest Georgia, in 2016.

There are six Georgians who will never come home. The men — Asbury L. Booze, Hiram D. Harris, Robert L. Mims, Harvey L. Pike, Lewis J. Pike and Robert G. Thompson — are among the 900 entombed in the U.S.S. Arizona,the most heavily damaged ship on that infamous day.

What is left of the Arizona lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. The Navy has declared it a graveyard. The hull is still visible under the clear Pacific, and thousands daily visit the Arizona Memorial.

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