Thanks to modern technology and DNA testing, the remains of a sailor that were recovered after the attack on Pearl Harbor have finally been identified.

According to the NAVY TIMES, 24-year-old William Eugene “Gene” Blanchard was a Boilerman 1st Class assigned to the Battleship USS Oklahoma, a ship directly attacked by the Japanese on December 7th, 1941. Blanchard was one of 429 crew members who lost their lives on the ship.

Boilermaker 1st Class William Eugene Blanchard

In total. 2,404 U.S. service members lost their lives during the surprise attack on the U.S. Naval base in Hawaii, and nearly 400 unidentified remains from sailors and marines aboard the Oklahoma were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery on Honolulu.

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Gene Blanchard’s grandson, Chris Blanchard, spoke to the IDAHO STATESMAN and said the Blanchard’s family was contacted by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) several years ago who said they were working at identifying the remains of the unidentified victims of the attack.

Blanchard’s son and one of his cousins gave a DNA sample to the agency but they never heard anything back until January 4th, 2021, when a positive identification was finally made.

“In January, they called and said, ‘Yes, we’ve made a positive ID. My first thought was, ‘What the heck? I mean, come on, it’s been 80 years now. Is this for real?'”

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Blanchard’s son, William, was only 6 months old when the Pearl Harbor attacks, so he never had the opportunity to know his biological father. This discovery has brought both insight and closure for the William and his family.

The Accounting Agency also presented the family with a detailed book on everything they could discover about Gene Blanchard, including that he was about 5″7 and was 120 pounds. Chris Blanchard tells the news outlet.

“My dad for the first time ever really has a sense of who his dad was, and it’s been really moving, because frankly I never expected that.”

80 years after his death, Gene Blanchard will finally receive a proper burial. The family, who reside in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, posted Blanchard’s obituary in the IDAHO STATESMAN this week. It details funeral arrangements for his remains, as well as mentions the military awards he received posthumously.

The family is so grateful for the work by the Accounting Agency that in lieu of flowers, they are asking for donations to be made to the DPAA in Gene’s honor, so their important work of honoring unidentified service members from all conflicts can be continued.

Speaking to the news outlet in a phone interview, DPAA public affairs officer Sgt. 1st Class Sean Everette said:

“Quite honestly, there are still family members of USS Oklahoma sailors and Marines who would like to know what happened to their loved ones or bring their loved ones home. And the purpose of DPAA is to account for service members who are still unaccounted for from our previous conflicts.”



This piece was written by Lindsey Matthews on March 28, 2021. It originally appeared in and is used by permission.

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