HONOLULU, Hawaii (KDVR) – Jerry Spangler, of Longmont, never knew his Uncle Maurice. But their genetic bond has helped solve a decades-old family mystery: What happened to Maurice Verdon Spangler’s remains?

Navy Seaman 1st Class Maurice Spangler, who was born and raised in Defiance, Ohio, was just 19 when he died aboard the USS Oklahoma on the morning of December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It was the attack that thrust the United States into World War II. Spangler’s ship was torpedoed several times and capsized with much of the crew trapped inside.

“And I was a year old at the time, so I never knew that much about it,” Jerry Spangler told FOX31.

Identifying the unknown at Pearl Harbor

A total of 429 crew members from the USS Oklahoma were killed in the attack. Three years later, the ship was righted and the remains of the sailors were recovered.

But only 35 men could be identified. The remains of 388 unidentified sailors and Marines were later buried in caskets marked “Unknown” at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

In April 2015, the Pentagon announced the start of “Project Oklahoma,” with the goal of exhuming the remains of those killed for DNA analysis, to provide closure for the families. Scientists with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency began the painstaking process of collecting and coordinating DNA samples from surviving relatives.

As one of Maurice’s few living relatives, Jerry Spangler got the call from the Defense Department a few years ago. He submitted a DNA swab for testing, and eventually, there was a revelation: Jerry’s DNA matched the DNA of a femur bone found among the remains of those killed aboard the USS Oklahoma. It was his Uncle Maurice.

“They were able to discover who were those bones related to,” Margaret Spangler, Jerry’s wife, told FOX31 in an interview on Tuesday from Honolulu, where the couple has traveled for the final interment of Maurice Spangler.

A final resting place for Uncle Maurice

They’ll be guests of the U.S. Navy Wednesday at the cemetery in Honolulu, also known as the “Punchbowl,” where Jerry Spangler’s uncle will finally be laid to rest in his own individually-marked grave.

“Oh, it’ll be a tear-jerker,” Jerry Spangler said.

Prior to the start of “Project Oklahoma,” 388 service members were unaccounted for. In the eight years since, 355 have been identified.