After decades wait two WWII servicemen return home for burial
A sailor from Fort Worth who was lost during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was honored Friday at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, 77 years after his death, on the day the country commemorates those who died in the battle.
The family of Navy Fireman 1st Class Albert U. Kane gathered at Committal Station Alpha for the services, which were followed shortly thereafter by services for a World War II Marine with Fort Worth ties who lost his life during the battle of Tarawa in 1943, Pfc. Clarence E. Drumheiser.
Kane’s nephew, Charles Kane, 66, held in his lap the American flag that was draped over the sailor’s coffin as the services commenced.
“I had given up hope because I figured they didn’t have enough to work with and because it had been so long,” Kane said after the solemn service. “It really was quite a surprise when they called my cousin in August to tell her the remains had been found and they wanted to meet with the family to decide what to do next.”
Kane said the military was 100 percent behind the idea to have Kane honored on Pearl Harbor Day. He was among a number of sailors and Marines who are finally being laid to rest in cemeteries across the nation.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Kane was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits and capsized, resulting in Kane’s death and the deaths of 428 of his crewmen.
After righting the ship, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew and transferred those remains to a military identification laboratory in 1947. But laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the battleship at that time.
Charles Kane said that when the battleship was hit, his uncle was likely trapped below— his job as a fireman was to stoke the fire that turned water into steam that ran the engines. All that remained were bones when the ship was boarded two years later. Identifications were mostly made using dental records in those days, Charles Kane said.
Those unidentified remains were buried in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Kane.
Armed with new technology, the military resumed the search for Kane and his fellow sailors on June 15, 2015, and began exhuming the remains from the Punchbowl for DNA analysis. Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. There are 72,781 still unaccounted for, of which about 26,000 are assessed as possibly recoverable.
Kane’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate that he has been accounted for.
Kane’s remains were returned to DFW International Airport on Wednesday, the same day Drumheiser’s remains arrived.
Jim Lucas, owner of Lucas Funeral Home, which officiated during the services, said this is the first time in this area that he has ever heard of the remains of two military men from WWII being buried in Dallas at the National Cemetery on Pearl Harbor Day.
Drumheiser, 21, of Fresno, was accounted for on March 26, 2018, and services honoring his family and life were held at 1 p.m. Friday, two hours after the services for Kane. Drumheiser’s sister, Sally Logan, 92, lives in Fort Worth.
“The family thought he was long gone,” said Ron Hagan, a distant relative. “When the Marines told his parents in 1943 that he had passed away, they launched a 10-year-effort to try to identify the remains, then they passed away.”
Hagan, a military history buff, said he was browsing the Internet on June 18 and saw that military personnel were searching for Drumheiser’s family, so they could inform them that he had been identified.
“It’s a miracle that I lived to see it,” said Logan, who also celebrates her birthday on Dec. 7.
“I only wish my parents could have been here,” Logan said. “I was 15 on December 7 when they bombed Pearl Harbor. The first thing my brother did when he graduated high school was join the Marines. He was 17 and he loved this country.”
In November 1943, Drumheiser was assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, according to military records.
About 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and more than 2,000 wounded. Drumheiser died on the third day of the battle,
After the fighting on Tarawa, U.S. service members who died in the battle were buried in a number of battlefield cemeteries on the island. The military conducted remains recovery operations on Betio between 1946 and 1947, but Drumheiser’s remains were not identified.
All the remains found on Tarawa were sent to the Schofield Barracks Central Identification Laboratory for identification in 1947. By 1949, the remains that had not been identified were interred in the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.
In October 2016, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) disinterred some of the Tarawa unknowns for identification. Drumheiser’s remains, like Kane’s, were just recently identified.
As Kane’s services ended, Capt. Robert Reeves knelt near the family and presented them with three spent rounds from a 21-gun salute earlier in the service, representing the three core values of the Navy, Reeves said — honor, courage and commitment.
One of Kane’s relatives said that Kane’s service was not a time for grieving but a homecoming celebration, according to Nathan Tucker, U.S. Air Force Chaplain.
“All gave some and some gave all,” Tucker said. “Albert Utley Kane will be among those on that long list who gave all.”