Home Virginia-born sailor who died at Pearl Harbor to be reinterred after DNA identification

Virginia-born sailor who died at Pearl Harbor to be reinterred after DNA identification

Courtesy of Navy Office of Community Outreach.

An Abingdon, Virginia man present at the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, will be buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific on May 20, 2024.

Seaman 1st Class James Holzhauer was 23 years old aboard the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked. Holzhauer performed typical sailor duties such as upkeep and maintenance of the ship, but also handled ropes and wires, stored and secured items and assisted with cargo when it was moved on or off the ship. Occasionally, he would serve as lookout, telephone talker, messenger and other similar duties. He was also a member of the ship’s gun crew.

Holzhauer was the recipient of a Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, American Defense Service Medal (Fleet Clasp), Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (Bronze Star) and World War II Victory Medal.

According to Capt. Jeff Draude, Director of the Navy Casualty Office, before the 2015 disinterment, which marked the beginning of Project Oklahoma, 388 service members from the USS Oklahoma were unaccounted for. Since then, 356 have been individually identified.

The basic identification process begins with a DNA sample from a surviving family member. Scientists with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), in Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii and Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska are tasked with the responsibility to identify unaccounted for past-conflict service members. Identifications are primarily made by matching the DNA reference samples from surviving family members with unaccounted remains. Other supporting documents such as any available medical and dental records are also used during the research and identification processes. DoD now has more than 361 samples to support DNA analysis of Oklahoma remains.

The U.S. Navy pays for all funeral expenses.

Holzhauer’s family lives in Florida now.

“Being able to recover and identify the remains of these sailors aids in the closure to these families. Like all forces in the Department of Defense (DoD), it is especially important to the Navy to honor our Sailors and Marines who paid the ultimate sacrifice in giving their lives for our country,” Draude said.

On December 7, 2021, the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy held a ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Hawaii for the 33 unaccounted Sailors from the USS Oklahoma. The sailors, who could not be identified by DNA, were laid to rest with full military honors. Secretary of the Navy the Honorable Carlos Del Torro presided over the ceremony.

An additional sailor, Radioman 3rd Class Frank Hoag Jr., has since been identified, bringing the number of unaccounted for Oklahoma Sailors to 32.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.