On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

Family buries Minnesota sailor lost in Pearl Harbor attack

Share story

Memorial was held for Kenneth Holm, a Pearl Harbor Navy Fireman 3rd class.
Blair Holm, nephew of Navy Fireman 3rd Class Kenneth Holm salutes his uncle after his remains were found 75 years after he was killed.
Maria Alejandra Cardona | MPR News

Navy Fireman 3rd Class Kenneth Holm was aboard the USS Oklahoma during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. 

The 29-year-old from Clarkfield was among the servicemen unaccounted for after Japanese torpedoes sunk the battleship, resulting in 429 deaths. 

By 2008, his family members found they couldn't wait any longer.

"We had a memorial service in Clarkfield," said Blair Holm, a Marine and Holm's nephew, adding his family didn't think Holm's remains would ever be returned.

Memorial was held for Kenneth Holm, a Pearl Harbor Navy Fireman 3rd class.
More than 75 years after he was killed in a Japanese attack of his battleship in Pearl Harbor, Holm's family finally had closure.
Maria Alejandra Cardona | MPR News

But almost 75 years to the date Holm was killed, his family got news he had been identified.

"The call came to me on December 6 of last year, and it just blew me away," Blair Holm said. "After I got off the phone, I just sat there and thought, finally."

The sailor returned home Wednesday. Blair Holm and a dozen family members attended a full-military honor funeral at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. 

"It's exhilarating and sad. It's taken this long to get to this day," said Holm. Now 81, he was 5 when his uncle was killed. 

Memorial was held for Kenneth Holm, a Pearl Harbor Navy Fireman 3rd class.
Navy sailors hold the U.S. flag over Holm's casket.
Maria Alejandra Cardona | MPR News

"When the Oklahoma sank and he was aboard, my grandparents — his mom and dad — held out hope that he'd be on shore leave or some place, that he would still be alive," Holm said. "And they went to their graves five years later, still thinking that thought. This is for them as well."

Kenneth Holm's unidentified remains were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. In 2015, the Department of Defense announced it would exhume USS Oklahoma servicemen and attempt to find out who they were through DNA analysis.

John Knapp, deputy director at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, said repatriation services,  have increased in recent years at the cemetery because of the improved technology. 

Holm is one of at least three serviceman killed on the USS Oklahoma whose remains were identified and returned to Minnesota this year.

"The least we can do is provide the most dignified, honorable service for these heroes, now that they've finally been identified, to bring them home to be among their comrades, among their peers, and for their families to be able to visit them," Knapp said.

In a proclamation, Gov. Mark Dayton declared it "Kenneth Holm Day" in Minnesota. Blair Holm, a Brainerd native, is well-versed in the full military honor services. He's a member of a military funeral detail at Riverside National Cemetery in California, where he lives. The service for his uncle made him think of other families who are still waiting.

"Our wish as a family is that people who have a relative that hasn't been identified not give up hope, but keep trying and pestering somebody to get the DNA testing done," he said.