Michigan WWII sailor accounted for nearly 80 years later

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — On June 5, 2020, Navy Radioman 3rd Class Irvin Rice was accounted for, according to an announcement released today by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

Rice was from Detroit, and died at age 22 on December 7, 1941, when the USS Oklahoma was attacked by a Japanese aircraft. The ship then capsized, resulting in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Rice. At the time, the USS Oklahoma was anchored at Ford Island in Pearl Harbor.

For nearly three years after the attack on the USS Oklahoma, Navy personnel made efforts to recover the remains of the crew, which were then interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries.

Fast forward to September 1947, when the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of the servicemen from both cemeteries, transferring the remains to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks.

Back then, the remains of only 35 men could be identified. The unidentified remains were then buried in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

In October 1949, those who could not be identified, including Rice, were categorized as non-recoverable by a military board.

Then in 2015, between the months of June and November, the DPAA exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknown from the Punchbowl to potentially be analyzed.

In order to identify Rice, the DPAA conducted an anthropological analysis, as well as scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System using mitochondrial DNA (mt-DNA) and Y chromosomal STR DNA (Y-STR) analysis.

A rosette will be placed by Rice’s name on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, to signify that he has been accounted for.

Rice will be buried on Oct. 2, 2021 in Berkley, Michigan.

To view Rice’s personal profile, click here.

For Irvin Rice’s family and funeral information, call the Navy Service Casualty office at (800) 443-9298.

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