Remains Of Two WWII Servicemen From Kentucky Identified And Returning For Burial

Jun 27, 2023 at 3:46 pm
Two previously lost WWII servicemen are coming home to Kentucky
Two previously lost WWII servicemen are coming home to Kentucky

On Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese pilots waged an attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Oklahoma sustained heavy damage from Japanese torpedo attacks. The ship capsized and resulted in the loss of

click to enlarge Photo provided by DPAA
Photo provided by DPAA

429 crew members including Navy Seaman 1st Class, Elmer P. Lawrence. In the three years that followed the attack, the U.S. Navy recovered the remains of the crew and interred them in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries in Hawaii.

In September of 1947, these remains were moved by the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory could only confirm the identities of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma. The rest were buried in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific which is also known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In 1949, the identities of these people were declared non-recoverable. 

However, in 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) using mtDNA, dental and other records, made a positive ID of Lawrence and though his name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, a rosette will be placed next to his name indicating that he has been identified and accounted for. 

He will be buried on July 22, in Smiths Grove, Kentucky. 

In the late summer of 1943, Private J.C. Brooks was a young soldier from Rockfield, Kentucky. He was a member of the 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry division stationed in Italy as part of Operation Husky, an effort to retake Sicily from fascist leader Benito Mussolini. The efforts of these campaigns and the ones surrounding them led to Mussolini’s loss of power. Brooks was killed during this campaign at the Battle of Troina on Aug. 1, 1943. The Battle of Troina was led by General George S. Patton, Jr. 

click to enlarge Private J.C. Brooks.
Private J.C. Brooks.

Because of the intense fighting, Allied forces were unable to recover Brooks at that time. The AGRC was tasked with recovering fallen American servicemembers in Europe after the war but on April 9, 1947, Brooks was declared non-recoverable.

That is changing now. In 2016, an “Unknown, X-22227 Monte Soprano,” was listed as a candidate for a match to Brooks. After much research and comparison to military records by the DPAA, the remains were disinterred in June of 2019 and sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for further analysis. Dental records, anthropological analysis, mtDNA, and other pieces of evidence were evaluated and returned a positive identification for Pvt. J.C. Brooks. His name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy along with others that remain missing from WWII. Since his identification has been made, a rosette will be placed next to his name in acknowledgment. 

His remains will be buried on Sept. 24, in Cecilia, Kentucky. 

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