Nov 4, 2013
04:39 AM
The Connecticut Story

Connecticut Family Fights to Get Pearl Harbor Sailor's Remains Home

Connecticut Family Fights to Get Pearl Harbor Sailor's Remains Home

Peter Hvizdak/New Haven Register

Tom Gray of Guilford holds a photo of the USS Oklahoma that was sunk at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and took the life of his cousin, Edwin Hopkins, a Navy fireman, at left in the larger photo, as Hopkins sits with his mother and father.

GUILFORD--In 1941, 3rd Class Fireman Edwin Hopkins made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States when he was killed during the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor.

But his remains, designated as unknown by the Navy, are buried in a casket in Hawaii along with the remains of five other “unknown” veterans — and his family wants him home.

Veteran’s Day honors the men and women who served their country, but for Tom Gray and his family, Nov. 11 is a constant reminder their hero isn’t at home.

Gray is fighting the Navy to retrieve the remains of his second cousin. The family hopes to bury Hopkins in a family cemetery in Keene, N.H., his hometown.

Hopkins was 19 years old when he was killed while working in the engine room on the USS Oklahoma.

His remains are buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, or “the “Punchbowl,” with five other unknown causalities in the same casket.

Gray said the process of getting Hopkins back has been a “runaround,” with the Navy giving the family a number of excuses.

The family was asked to submit mitochondrial DNA as proof of relation, which was done, Gray said.

“The issue is the reasons keep changing,” Gray said.

Gray said the Navy has also claimed to “not want to disturb the sanctity of the graves.”

“That’s still the case,” said Sarah Flaherty, lieutenant commander of public affairs. “The grave has been disturbed a number of times. We don’t want to keep doing that.”

Gray obtained documentation showing Hopkins’ remains were recovered and buried in the Halawa Naval Cemetery, Plot K Grave 1048, in 1943. In 1949, it was recommended Hopkins’ “unknown” remains be transferred to another gravesite along with his identity.

Despite the recommendation, an anthropologist refused to sign the certificate because she didn’t have all the remains to make a full identification, according to Gray.

Hopkins’ remains were transferred to the Punchbowl as unknown.

“The remains of five sailors were identified and returned to their families in 2002,” Gray said. “We want the same treatment for my cousin.”

He believes the Navy is “stalling” because of finances, and is asking politicians for help.

“Our family just wants to give him a proper burial. It’s not going to cost the federal government a lot of money to identify these men,” Gray said.

Flaherty said the Navy understands the concerns of family members, but options had to be weighed.

See the full story at the New Haven Register.


Connecticut Family Fights to Get Pearl Harbor Sailor's Remains Home

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