Long-awaited questions answered after Pearl Harbor sailor's remains identified

Jerry Kvidera of Plymouth, Minn. has spent a lifetime wondering about the uncle he never met. His uncle, William, was the oldest of six boys and was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor. His remains were missing for nearly eight decades as everyone but Jerry's father, John, passed on. 

“[John] said it many times, ‘Boy, I wish my mom and dad and all my brothers could be here,’” said Jerry. 

Four years ago, several members of the Kvidera family volunteered DNA swabs for testing by the Department of Defense. Last week, those tests paid off. 

John got a visit at his home in Iowa from three Navy service members, who presented him with official confirmation of his big brother’s remains. They also brought personal items the family had never seen before, including William's application for the military and even a letter to an old girlfriend. 

“He doesn't say a whole lot, but I can tell he really appreciates what the Navy is doing,” said Jerry. “They've done a lot here.”

The DOD's Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency continues to accelerate the identifications of service member remains, thanks to a variety of factors including now having two labs instead of one and the addition of dozens more staff members for analyzing.

DNA technology also continues to improve. For example, some soldiers missing from the Korean War can now be identified by using old x-rays each service member had taken as part of tuberculosis testing and comparing them to discovered remains of the clavicle or upper spinal column. 

“Our numbers have been steadily growing over the years, but we are going to keep working on this,” said Lee Tucker, a spokesman for the Defense POW/ MIA Accounting Agency. “With nearly 83,000 service members from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War, we are committed to doing everything we can to account for these missing service members.”

After the first funeral back in 1942, next month William's remains will finally be laid to rest with the military honor a hero deserves. 

“Dad's 91 and he's going to be able to see him come home,” said Jerry. “That will be neat.”

This fiscal year, the Department of Defense has topped the number of missing services members identified last year with 203 identifications. They hope to continue bring even more families closure next year.