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Remains of sailor killed in attack on Pearl Harbor to be brought to Rowan County

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 8:56 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 15, 2021 at 8:16 PM EDT
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ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Russell Ufford, 17, was a sailor serving on the USS Oklahoma when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. It was not until February 11, 2021, that his remains were positively identified.

Ufford, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, will be buried in the National Cemetery in Salisbury on Friday.

According to a press release from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Ufford was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Ufford.

From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries. In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Ufford. Between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis.

To identify Ufford’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.

Ufford’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

On Thursday, Ufford’s remains will be brought to the Powles Staton Funeral Home in Rockwell. There will be an escort from the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.

For his time in the service, Ufford was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Defense Service Medal w/ Fleet Clasp, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal w/ Bronze Star, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, and the Navy Good Conduct Medal.

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