EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — The remains of a Navy veteran who died in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor are being returned to his home state of Indiana.
George James Wilcox was 19 when a Japanese torpedo sunk his ship, the USS Oklahoma, killing him and more than 400 other people, the Evansville Courier and Press reported.
Wilcox had been buried in a mass grave until the Department of Defense identified his remains this year using DNA testing. The department has identified the remains of 100 sailors from the USS Oklahoma by comparing their DNA to living family members.
After Wilcox’s family was alerted about the identification of the remains, they learned what they could about his life.
“All we knew was he died in Pearl Harbor,” said his nephew, David Wilcox.
The family discovered that Wilcox was the oldest of his three siblings. His father, George Wilcox Sr., took the children to the St. Vincent Orphanage in Vincennes, Indiana, because he couldn’t afford to care for them after his wife died.
“My grandpa couldn’t afford to keep them, so he gave them up,” David Wilcox said. “The era they lived in, life was hard.”
George Wilcox was never adopted and opted to join the Navy with his father’s permission. He was 17 at the time.
Wilcox’s family said they’re eagerly awaiting his homecoming.
“Every family member should be back with their family, no matter how long it’s been,” David Wilcox said.
Wilcox’s remains will be returned to Indiana this month. His family expects to host a funeral on Dec. 16. He’ll be buried at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery, near his father’s grave, in Evansville.
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