A Navy fireman who was one of the first Minnesotans to be killed in World War II is finally coming home.
Navy Fireman First Class Elmer Kerestes was aboard the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, when it was struck by torpedoes and quickly capsized, a news release says.
The 22-year-old from Holdingford Township was among the 429 sailors and Marines to be killed on the ship that day. The USS Oklahoma suffered the second-most fatalities in the attack, behind the USS Arizona.
At the time, officials were only able to identify the remains of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma. The remains of those who weren't identified – including Kerestes – were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, and they were classified as "non-recoverable," the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency says.
But a few years ago, officials dug up the men who hadn't been identified from the USS OKlahoma in hopes of figuring out who they were. Earlier this year, they matched remains to Kerestes using DNA analysis and circumstantial evidence, the agency says.
And now – 76 years later – he's finally coming home.
Kerestes' remains are expected to arrive at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Thursday afternoon, ahead of a funeral that's scheduled for Saturday.
A procession will escort Kerestes' remains from the airport to the funeral home in Melrose, and then there will be another procession from the funeral home to Highland Cemetery in Holdingford Saturday morning.
Kerestes grew up in Holdingford and enlisted in the U.S.Navy in August 1939. He was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously. The VFW Post #5160 is named after him, and he's also remembered at the Soldiers Shrine of World War II in Holdingford, which is said to be the oldest WWII monument in the country.