Serving Those Who Serve Serving Those Who Serve

Colorado family gets answers 80 years after uncle died at Pearl Harbor

Serving Those Who Serve

FIRESTONE, Colo. (KDVR) — The 80th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack holds special meaning for a Colorado family. Earlier this year, the mystery of the uncle who died on December 7, 1941, was solved.

“He was just in the wrong place when this whole thing started and didn’t make it out,” J.D. Hiskett told FOX31, talking about his great uncle’s role in the attack that thrust the United States into World War II.

Denis Hiskett, 20, of Nebraska City, Nebraska, was a firefighter aboard the USS Oklahoma, docked at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. As the Japanese attack unfolded, the ship was torpedoed six times and capsized. More than 400 sailors were trapped inside.

“How he died — if he was drowned, we have no idea. If he died from a torpedo hit, we don’t know,” J.D. Hiskett, who lives in Firestone, said.

The sailor’s remains were buried in an unmarked grave at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific — also known as the “Punchbowl,” near Honolulu — for the last few decades.

“We didn’t have a place to go and lay flowers or anything else. He was just in a grave in Hawaii,” J.D. Hiskett said.

The family had pretty much closed the book on the uncle they never knew, until an actual book arrived at J.D.’s house, delivered by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the government department in charge of locating and identifying the missing after military conflicts. Turns out, the agency compiled the book after exhuming the remains of the unknown sailors from the USS Oklahoma a few years back.

After conducting a dental and DNA analysis, they discovered a match. Seems Uncle Denis — missing for eight decades — was missing no more.

Surviving family members had never even seen a picture of Denis until the book arrived.

“I thought, my God, it looks like my dad,” Tom Hiskett, the closest surviving family member, told FOX31.

Thanks to the Pentagon, the family now has everything, from Denis’ enlistment papers to his signature. It’s a glimpse at a life that was just getting started when it was tragically ended.

This weekend, Denis’ remains will be buried near those of his parents at a cemetery in southern California. 

“We think that’s what he would have wanted,” J.D. Hiskett said.

Family members will be in attendance too, with the help of FOX31. We’ve posthumously named Denis Hiskett our FOX31 Serving Those Who Serve Hero of the Month for December 2021.

Along with the honor comes a $500 Visa gift card, courtesy of our sponsors at Plumbline Services, Ford Dealers and the Leo Hill Charitable Trust. The money will help pay travel expenses for the family to attend the memorial.

J.D. Hiskett, who is a veteran of the Marines, told us he paid an emotional visit to Pearl Harbor a few years back.

“I stood there knowing I have a relative there. And it just, it gives me goosebumps now,” he said.

Those emotions have returned, knowing his family’s forgotten hero is no longer forgotten.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Most Read

Top Stories