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Remains of Mississippi sailor killed at Pearl Harbor finally identified

The remains of a Liberty, Mississippi native killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 will be returned home for final burial this summer.

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) recently shared the story of John Melton:

John Melton was 22 years old in October of 1940 when he found himself stationed in Hawaii. Raised on a farm near Liberty, Mississippi, the youngest of three children, John had decided to serve his country by enlisting in the U.S. Navy. Shortly after completing boot camp, he arrived at Pearl Harbor aboard the USS West Virginia. It was on that battleship that he would lose his life in the Japanese attack that pulled our nation into World War II.

For nearly 80 years, John Melton’s body could not be identified. He was laid to rest at a national memorial cemetery in Hawaii, with a granite headstone marked “Unknown.” Yet thanks to a recent military initiative, John’s remains have now been identified for the first time. Using DNA and dental analysis, scientists have been working to identify the remains of 35 Sailors from the USS West Virginia, bringing a degree of closure for the families. John Melton’s remains will soon be returned home to Mississippi for a final burial this summer.

Although John Melton did not live to see it, the attack on Pearl Harbor rallied millions of his own generation to serve our country in uniform. Tragically, many of them never came home. Between 1941 and 1945, our nation lost more than 400,000 servicemen. Remarkably, John’s battleship – the USS West Virginia – would be salvaged, rebuilt, and returned to service by 1944. A new crew would help liberate the Philippines and would eventually reach Tokyo Bay in 1945 for the formal surrender of Japan. As we honor our fallen heroes this Memorial Day, we should remember John Melton, a son of Mississippi, and his crewmates who did not live to see the day of victory and renewed peace.

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