ESCANABA — A decision by the military to disinter 388 bodies from a cemetery in Hawaii could identify 14 of the 15 sailors from Michigan who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 on the USS Oklahoma, including the brother of Bob Valley of Escanaba.
Valley, 82, has been working since 2002 to identify the remains of 27 servicemen known to be buried at a cemetery called the Punchbowl. After years of frustration, the military this month began to exhume not only the 27 but all of the bodies buried in 61 caskets at 45 grave sites.
“It doesn’t mean that just the 27 will be identified, my brother could be one of the 388,” Valley said, “I was not expecting, I had no idea this would happen.”
Lowell Valley of Ontonagon was a 19-year-old Fireman 2nd Class on the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked in 1941. Not knowing has been tough his family. Valley said if his brother is among those identified he plans to bring him back to the Upper Peninsula.
“We would have him shipped home and have a reburial ceremony in Ontonagon where we are from, our hometown,” he said.
There were five bodies that were previously identified from the Punchbowl including 18-year-old Gerald Lehman of Hancock. He was reburied at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Houghton in 2010.
Valley said it could take up to five years to finish identifying all of the bodies.