Kentucky seaman gets burial decades after going missing at Pearl Harbor

Published 10:35 am Monday, July 24, 2023

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By Sarah Ladd

Kentucky Lantern

For decades, Elmer P. Lawrence was unaccounted for after dying at Pearl Harbor.

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However, this weekend he was buried 13 minutes from his hometown.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which works to identify soldiers lost, announced in June that its scientists had identified Lawrence in 2021 and would send him home for burial.

Navy Seaman 1st Class Lawrence was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which capsized after being torpedoed in 1941. He was one of 429 crew members to die that day. The DPAA says 365 have now been identified.

Lawrence enlisted in Louisville in 1940, a year before his death, at age 23.

The Japanese attack on the U.S. fleet in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, brought the United States into World War II.

Lawrence was awarded many honors for his service: the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with Bronze Star), American Defense Service Medal (with Fleet Clasp), World War II Victory Medal and the American Campaign Medal.

Lawrence was buried during a 3:30 p.m. service Saturday in the Shilo Cemetery in Railton in his native Barren County, according to the Navy Office of Community Outreach.

Gov. Andy Beshear ordered flags in Kentucky to fly half-staff on Saturday to honor Lawrence.

A rosette will be placed next to Lawrence’s name on the Walls of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl Cemetery, in Honolulu to let people know he’s been found and identified.

“We are saddened to acknowledge the death of another young Kentuckian who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Beshear said in a statement. “But we are gratified that modern science and military determination has, against all odds, found him and will bring him home.”