After nearly 81 years, remains of those killed at Pearl Harbor are still being returned home after identification.
Seaman First Class John Russell Melton will be returning home for burial on July 9, at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. Melton was one of 2,403 U.S. personnel that died at the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Melton was a native of Liberty, Mississippi, and was born on February 7, 1918. He enlisted in the Navy in May of 1940. He received several decorations for his service including a Purple Heart Medal, Good conduct Medal (Bronze Star), American Defense Service Medal (Fleet Clasp), Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (Bronze Star), American Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal.
He was assigned to the U.S.S. West Virginia (BB 48) which was sunk during the attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.
Dr. Laurel Freas, Project Lead for the Pearl Harbor Ships Project (DPAA), says that attempts began in 2017 to identify 35 unknown persons that were associated with the U.S.S. West Virginia. Similar projects had been done with the U.S.S. Oklahoma.
A total of 105 casualties were from that ship with 25 unresolved casualties (individuals who were known to have died but no remains have been recovered) and 35 associated unknowns at the start of the project. These individuals were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP) in Hawaii.
As of June 2022, there have been 13 U.S.S. West Virginia identifications.
Once an identification has been made, through a lengthy laboratory process and comparison to Family Reference Samples, the next of kin was notified by the Navy regarding further decisions on the remains of that family member, according to Capt. Robert McMahan, Director, Navy Casualty Office.
The Navy covers all funeral expenses, family travel and lodging for up to three blood-related family members to that service member. There are many aspects of the funeral that are also handled including casket, remains transportation, funeral home and cemetery expenses.
These seamen receive full funeral honors with a rifle salute, burial team and Taps.