Friday, June 11, 2010

Flags Half-Staff Saturday for Michigan Sailor Lost at Pearl Harbor

Got this surprising and intriguing state release yesterday:

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today ordered United States flags throughout the state of Michigan and on Michigan waters lowered for one day Saturday, June 12, 2010, in honor of U. S. Navy Fireman 3rd Class Gerald George Lehman who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. Flags should be returned to full-staff Sunday, June 13.

Fireman 3rd Class Lehman died less than a month after his 18th birthday aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma in Hawaii when the Japanese executed a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. For the past 69 years, his family believed that Gerald was unknown and unrecoverable. However, with advances in modern technology, Lehman’s remains were positively identified through DNA testing, and he will finally return home to be laid to rest on Saturday.

And how they did it is, as they say, "the rest of the story". From the obituary:

While the family believed that Gerald was unknown and unrecoverable, remains associated with Lehman had been placed in a grave with those associated with four other sailors. In addition to Swanson, Thompson, Buxrucker, Wyman and Lehman, other remains were also found to be interred in the same grave. With advances in modern technology, four of the five were positively identified and returned to their families. Only Gerald could not be returned to his family, because he and another sailor had the same mitochondrial DNA. How the case was solved is what makes this case a landmark, precedent-setting case. Lehman was identified by his own nuclear DNA found on envelopes Gerald had sent home to his parents. Delia Lehman, Gerald's mother, could have opened the envelopes across the top flap, read the letters, and discarded the envelopes, or she could have opened them across the top flap, resulting in contamination. Instead, because she saved the envelopes and opened them down the side, there was no contamination on the undisturbed flap, and 70 years after Gerald had sealed the envelopes, this simple act resulted in his successful positive identification.

F3c (Fireman Third Class) Lehman, decorated with numerous awards such as the Purple Heart, WWII Victory Medal, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon, will be buried next to his mother in the family plot in Houghton. He is survived by one nephew and four nieces.

Welcome home, Gerald - and thank you for your sacrifice those many years ago.