A Maine family found out they had a relative who died in the 1941 Pearl Harbor bombing, and his remains will be brought back to the state to be buried in Augusta later this month.
Stanley Willis Allen of Bethel was a Navy sailor on the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor when it sank during the attack, killing him and 428 other sailors. Allen was one of the 388 sailors who initially were unidentified.
The USS Oklahoma Project, an effort by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to identify unknown sailors from the USS Oklahoma and return them to their families, identified Allen after requesting DNA samples from his surviving family, Beverly Gelwick of Harpswell, according to a news release. Allen was Gelwick’s cousin, but she didn’t even know about him before the Navy reached out, her daughter Jennifer Gelwick-Luecke said.
The project started in 2015 when the Department of Defense changed its policy on identifying unknown deceased members of the military, focusing on DNA analysis and returning identified military members’ remains to their families.
“It’s emotional knowing that you had a relative that you had never even heard about,” said Gelwick-Luecke, who lives in Portland. “[Gelwick] does remember the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed. She was like eight years old, and she said people were crying and all the church bells were ringing in her town of Lisbon Falls, Maine.”
Allen will be buried Tuesday at Central Maine Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Augusta. Before he was identified, Allen was laid to rest alongside the other unknown sailors in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
“He’s identified, and he’s coming home. That’s wonderful and special to us,” Gelwick-Luecke said.
Correction: A previous version of the story stated the incorrect residence of Beverly Gelwick. She lives in Harpswell.
Jules Walkup is a Report for America corps member. Additional support for this reporting is provided by BDN readers.