Sisters Vera Denny, left, and Flora Mae Young, second from left, received well-wishers before services started Sunday for their brother, Payton L. Vanderpool Jr., in Braymer, Mo. Sixty-two years after he and more than 2,200 Americans died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Vanderpool's remains were laid to rest in his hometown. Because of confusion following the attack, Vanderpool's identity was lost, and the location of his remains was unknown for decades.

Sisters bury sailor’s
remains from ’41 attack

Dental records helped identify
the crewman of a Pearl Harbor ship

BRAYMER, Mo. >> Sixty-two years to the day after he died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the remains of a sailor from Missouri were laid to rest in his hometown.

Payton Vanderpool, Shown in a portrait, died aboard the U.S. warship Pennsylvania

Payton L. Vanderpool Jr. was 22 and serving aboard the USS Pennsylvania when he died. Because of confusion following the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that brought the United States into World War II, Vanderpool's identity was lost, and the location of his remains was unknown until this year.

In September, recently disinterred remains were identified as Vanderpool's by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. It was only the second time that an unknown Pearl Harbor victim was found and identified.

Among those attending the service were three of Vanderpool's sisters, Thelma Blanton and Flora Mae Young, both of Kansas City, Kan., and Vera Denny, of St. Joseph, Mo. A fourth sister was unable to attend.

"He is no longer in a grave unknown," Blanton told about 170 people who attended the service. "He has come home."

His remains were traced through dental records and other evidence gathered by Pearl Harbor survivor and historian Ray Emory. His research also led two years ago to the identification of apprentice seaman Thomas Hembree -- the first Pearl Harbor "unknown" to be identified.

Emory began working to identify Vanderpool in March 2002 after noticing one of the Pearl Harbor casualty files contained dental records. Emory compared that file with personnel files he has collected through the years, and Vanderpool's turned up a perfect match.

The military agreed and sent the disinterred remains to Hickam for examination.

A forensic dental expert, Navy Capt. John Lewis Jr., said a photograph of a smiling Vanderpool -- missing a tooth -- provided a key bit of information. The remains were missing the same tooth.

"It was a remarkable resemblance between the photograph and the dental remains," Lewis said. "This was one of those cases I would say is relatively rare. It really jumped out at you."

At Sunday's service in a funeral home in Braymer, Vanderpool's casket was flanked by his Navy whites, hanging on a wall, and a small table of portraits and memorabilia. The items included a tin toy and a letter Vanderpool wrote to his parents three months before his death.

"You must be getting plenty of rain now, and I hope you have a good crop," he wrote. "Eighty cents a bushel is pretty high for corn, isn't it?"

Blanton was a high school student the last time she saw her brother.

"I just can't imagine this happening in my lifetime," she said last month. "I am so thankful that us sisters were still here when this happened so we can be a part of it. I am still in awe of it all. It is just a miracle to me."

Among those at the rites was Urban Neff, 86, of Marceline, Mo., who also served on the Pennsylvania.

Although he did not know Vanderpool, Neff said, "I just sort of felt that I should be here."


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --