FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 14, 2023) – Gov. Andy Beshear recognizes the sacrifice of a Park City, Kentucky, sailor who died on the USS Oklahoma in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 but whose remains were not identified until 2021.
“We are saddened to acknowledge the death of another young Kentuckian who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor,” said Gov. Beshear. “But we are gratified that modern science and military determination has, against all odds, found him and will bring him home.”
Navy Seaman 1st Class Elmer P. Lawrence of Park City, Kentucky, died on Dec. 7, 1941. Lawrence was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which quickly caused it to capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Lawrence.
From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries.
In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Lawrence.
Between June and November 2015, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis.
To identify Lawrence’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.
Lawrence’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Funeral services for Lawrence will be held at Shiloh General Baptist Church in Railton, Kentucky, on July 22, 2023, with burial immediately following at Shiloh Cemetery.
Gov. Beshear will order flags lowered to half-staff in honor of Seaman 1st Class Lawrence on the day of interment.