CORBIN, Ky. (AP) – Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Ulis Claud Steely came home for the first time in more than 78 years.
Steely died at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when nine Japanese torpedoes capsized the USS Oklahoma. The ship sat upside-down in the harbor across three years, and 429 sailors, including Steely, were unrecoverable. When the ship was righted, 35 sailors’ remains were identified immediately. Steely wasn’t one of them. He was buried in Hawaii along with 388 other unidentified sailors.
Disinterred in 1947 for more testing, Steely’s remains again weren’t identified. Classified as non-recoverable, he was buried a second time, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu until 2015, when scientists exhumed the remains of Steely and his shipmates to test their mitochondrial DNA. He was classified “accounted for” in October 2018.
It took two burials, two rounds of testing, travel to at least four states and 78 years. But on Oct. 3, 2019, MM1c Ulis Steely began the long journey home.
Hundreds of people from Corbin lined Main Street holding American flags. One woman said she waited several hours to see Steely come through
Corbin Mayor Suzie Razmus “The feelings that the country have for the greatest generation is felt very strongly everywhere obviously,” she said. “But we’re a rural community. Family is everything to us. Home is everything to us.”
Steely was buried October 5 before a headstone his parents, Ed and Minnie, bought a year after he died, long before they knew if he’d be recovered.
Below his name, they engraved the words, “He gave his life at Pearl Harbor and died that we might have our freedom.”