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75 years later, DNA match brings Pearl Harbor victim back home to Colorado

Serving Those Who Serve

Navy Ensign John England

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DENVER -- For Katy Bemiss the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor this week will have special meaning.  She finally knows the details about her uncle, who was killed in the attack on Hawaii.

She has been looking for some punctuation for years.  A period, an exclamation point … something to finish off her family story.

“It`s been a very long saga,” Bemiss said.

When the United States was thrust into World War II in 1941, her uncle, Navy Ensign John England, was aboard the USS Oklahoma.

The ship was torpedoed five times and capsized that morning. After the attack, England went down below and started pulling out sailors. He successfully pulled out three and was going back for the fourth when he was killed.

When they finally righted the ship, they found the human remains of several shipmates and buried them in Hawaii. But they were never identified.

“I think it was May of last year that the Navy finally said, ‘OK, we're going to do this, we're going to disinter all of these people,’ and I had to give a DNA sample, and then I think it was May of this year, we got confirmation that his remains had been identified through DNA,” Bemiss said.

Bemiss was able to solve the family mystery about a man she never even met.

“It's amazing to have this suddenly erupt and become part of our lives again,” Bemiss said.

No one knew who he was, buried 3,000 miles from home. But in August, England was anonymous no more. He was brought back home and laid to rest with full military honors at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs.

“It was exhilarating to me because we were able to lay him to rest in a grave right next to his mother and father. And we didn't even know that grave existed until about three years ago,” Bemiss said.

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Believe it or not, it was a joyous day for the family.

“I couldn't believe that after all these years, finally we had -- we brought the boy home again,” Bemiss said.

Not only does England now have his place in family history, he has a place in Navy history.

Two Navy ships have been named after him. The first sank six enemy submarines in less than two weeks during World War II. The second was a missile cruiser involved in every conflict from Vietnam to Desert Storm. The history books will never forget England.

And now, a piece of Bemiss' history finally has its punctuation.

“That period at the end of a sentence. And I'm just so excited and so thrilled that we were able to do this, that we were able to do this. That we were able to bring my uncle home,” Bemiss said.

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