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A sailor returns home: Fillmore County man brought home after being killed in Pearl Harbor

Seaman First Class Johnson was killed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Posted: Jul 7, 2018 10:47 PM
Updated: Jul 8, 2018 8:42 AM

RUSHFORD, Minn. - Over 76 years after he was killed in Pearl Harbor and his remains were declared unrecoverable and unidentifiable, a sailor from Rushford is returning to his hometown.

Through new technology, Joseph M. Johnson's remains were identified through mitochondrial DNA, which is traced through the maternal side of the family. Johnson's nephew Dennis Rislove gave a DNA sample that helped identify Johnson's remains.

"Nobody ever expected this to happen. He was declared unrecoverable and that's the way it sat for many years," explains Rislove.

The only family member alive today who knew Joe is his 99-year-old brother-in-law.

The Rushford community held a funeral service for Joe at Rushford Lutheran Church and burried him in the Rushford Lutheran Cemetary next to his parents and close to his sisters.

"The opportunity for something like this to happen even 76 years later its really a promise well kept," says U.S. Navy Captain Nathaniel Strandquist. "As a nation, we ask our soldiers, sailor, airmen, and marines to put their lives on the line and in some cases, like with Seaman First Class Johnson, that price is paid in full."

Rislove tells KIMT he is appreciative of the U.S. Navy and Government for their dedication to identifying these sailors' remains when the technology became available. "They've always believed no man left behind."

Johnson is the fifth Minnesota sailor from the U.S.S. Oklahoma to be identified.

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