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Ohio Navy vet who died aboard USS Oklahoma during attack on Pearl Harbor coming home for burial

Russell Roach Navy
Posted at 5:55 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 17:55:24-04

ZANESVILLE, Ohio — A Navy veteran from Ohio who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor 79 years ago will return home for burial on Aug. 11.

Seaman 1st Class Russell Roach was born in Kansas City, Missouri on Jan. 27, 1924 but his hometown was Zanesville, Ohio.

Roach enlisted in the Navy in August of 1940 at the age of 16. Just over a year later, the young seaman was on duty aboard the USS Oklahoma, which was based at Pearl Harbor for patrol and exercises.

The USS Oklahoma was moored in Battleship Row on Dec. 7, 1941 when the Empire of Japan attacked by air. The USS Oklahoma was one of the first vessels hit in the attack.

With many of the crew sleeping in their racks below deck still in the early morning attack, many never made it up to the main deck before the ship was struck with aerial torpedoes which tore open the port side and trapped crew members who were still within the hull.

A total of 429 sailors on the USS Oklahoma lost their lives in the attack, including Roach.

Only 35 of the 429 sailors were originally able to be identified and the others' remains were buried as "unknowns" at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in 1950.

In 2015, the Department of Defense announced the remains of the unidentified sailors would be exhumed for DNA analysis in an attempt to reunite them with their families.

Since exhuming the remains and since January 2021, 300 of the unknown sailors have been identified.

Roach, who has been awarded a Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with Bronze Star and a World War II Victory Medal, will return to Zainesville for burial on Aug. 11.

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