MINNEAPOLIS (NNS) -- More than 74 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, USS Oklahoma Chief Metalsmith Duff Gordon's remains were returned to his hometown of Hudson, Wisconsin, March 29.
The repatriation comes following advances in forensic sciences, which has progressed enough to finally identify Gordon, one of as many as 388 unknown Oklahoma Sailors buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
Navy funeral honors members from Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Minneapolis, the MSP Fire Department color guard, and riders from Patriot Guard greeted Gordon at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Gordon's sole remaining relative, David Jenson, was on hand to take possession of the remains, to be buried, March 30, at the family burial site in Hudson.
"This was a really nice thing to do," said Jenson. "Being a Navy veteran myself, this was the honorable thing to do to see Duff properly laid to rest."
Though Jenson served in the Navy during the Vietnam era as an aviation boatswain's mate first class on board USS Enterprise, he had no idea he had a relative who died at Pearl Harbor until he was contacted by the Defense MIA/POW Accounting Agency.
"My grandma died when I was very young," said Jenson. "She never spoke about Duff, and neither did my grandfather during all of his stories. So it was quite a surprise when the Navy sent us a letter three or four years ago saying I was a possible descendent, and asked for a DNA sample."
That DNA test was inconclusive, so again Jenson was tested.
"Six to nine months later, they asked for a second test and it was 99.8 percent conclusive," said Lucy Jenson, Jenson's wife.
The offload of Gordon's remains was especially poignant for one funeral honors member, as one of the Navy's newest Sailors was able to pay his respects to one of the "Greatest Generation."
"The magnitude of this experience makes it a unique one," said Engineman Fireman Recruit Jack Nadeau of Hugo, Minnesota, who joined the Navy Reserve in September. "It's not every day we get to honor a Sailor of this significance, and it has a lot of meaning for me as a young Sailor."
Rear Adm. Thomas Luscher, deputy Chief of Navy Reserve, arrived from Washington, D.C. to greet Gordon and speak with his family.
"It is very important that we do honor those that we are able to identify like Chief Duff Gordon here, and give him a proper homecoming," Luscher said.
Gordon, at 52, was among the crew's oldest Sailors when it was torpedoed on Dec. 7, 1941. It wasn't until the ship was being salvaged that remains of those Sailors trapped on board were discovered, and by then they could not be identified. Work was done in 1949 and again in 2015 to identify the remains buried in 61 caskets from 45 graves. Five Sailors have been positively identified so far by those efforts.
NOSC Minneapolis, which provided the planeside pallbearers and funeral honor team, provides training and administrative support to Selected Reserve Sailors in the Twin Cities area, and executes the funeral honors mission for veterans in the area.
The Patriot Guard was established in 2005 to provide dignified motorcycle escorts and flag displays for deceased veterans.