Pearl Harbor survivor helps identify unknown dead
BY Associated Press
Friday, December 07, 2012
12/07/12 at 5:27 AM
HONOLULU (AP) - Ray Emory could not accept that more than one quarter of the 2,400 Americans who died at Pearl Harbor were buried, unidentified, in a volcanic crater.
And so he set out to restore names to the dead.
Emory, a survivor of the attack, doggedly scoured decades-old documents to piece together who was who. He pushed, and sometimes badgered, the government into relabeling more than 300 gravestones with the ship names of the deceased.
On Friday, the 71-year anniversary of the Japanese attack, the Navy and National Park Service will honor the 91-year-old former sailor for his determination to have Pearl Harbor remembered, and remembered accurately.
Emory first learned of the unknown graves more than 20 years ago when he visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific shortly before the 50th anniversary of the attack. The grounds foreman told him the Pearl Harbor dead were scattered around the veterans' graveyard in a volcanic crater called Punchbowl.
Emory got a clipboard and walked along row after row of flat granite markers, making notes of any listing death around Dec. 7, 1941. He obtained the Navy's burial records and determined which ships the dead in each grave were from.
He wrote the government asking why the markers didn't note ship names and asked them to change it.
Today, unknowns from vessels like the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma and USS West Virginia, have new markers.
Some of the dead, like those turned to ash, will likely never be identified. But Emory knew some could be.
The Navy's 1941 burial records noted one body, burned and floating in the harbor, was found wearing shorts with the name "Livingston."
Government forensic scientists exhumed him. Dental records, a skeletal analysis and circumstantial evidence confirmed Emory's suspicions. The remains belonged to Alfred Livingston, a 23-year-old fireman first class assigned to the USS Oklahoma.
When the family learned Alfred was found, they brought him home to Indiana to be buried in the same cemetery where his grandmother and mother rest.
Original Print Headline: Veteran helps ID Pearl Harbor dead
A gravestone identifying the resting place of seven unknowns from the USS Oklahoma who died in the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor is at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. AUDREY MCAVOY/Associated Press
Ray Emory: He's worked to identify Pearl Harbor's unknown dead