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Milwaukee Marine killed during attack on Pearl Harbor now accounted for

Posted at 12:58 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 13:58:37-05

MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee Marine who was killed during WWII has been identified 78 years after his death.

Marine Corps Cpl. Elmer E. Drefahl was 22-years-old when he was killed along with the crew of the USS Oklahoma.

The battleship was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor when the ship was attacked by a Japanese aircraft. They took several torpedo hits which caused the ship to capsize.

429 crewmen, including Drefahl, were killed during the attack. From December 1941 to June 1944, the Navy worked to recover the crewmen's bodies. They were then interred in the Halawa and Nu'uanu Cemeteries.

Years later, in September of 1947, the bodies at both cemeteries were disinterred and transferred to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks.

At that time, only 35 of the men on board the USS Oklahoma were identified. The unidentified remains were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

Again, in 2015, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis.

Scientists from DPAA anthropological analysis and scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner were able to identify Drefahl on Sept. 29 of 2020. DPAA used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis to identify Drefahl.

A rosette will be placed next to Drefahl's name on the Punchbowl Walls to signify he has been accounted for.

The date and location for Drefahl's burial have yet to be determined by the family.

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