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Laying Uncle George to rest: Remains of sailor killed at Pearl Harbor come home to Dallas City

GEORGE_PICS.jpg
Jane Carlson
/
Tri States Public Radio
Photos of Navy Fireman 1st Class George F. Price are displayed at his funeral in Dallas City on May 4.

Eighty years, four months, and 27 days after Navy Fireman 1st Class George Franklin Price was killed at Pearl Harbor, his remains finally came home.

Price was aboard the USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941, when the battleship sustained multiple torpedo hits and capsized.

He was among nearly 400 sailors from the USS Oklahoma who were classified as “unrecoverable” following the attack.

So for decades his unidentified remains were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl.

But the U.S. Navy’s effort in recent years to identify those remains using DNA analysis means Price’s family got the chance all these years later to honor him – and bury him – in his hometown.

Back by the river

Price grew up in a large family in Dallas City, right on the Mississippi River.

Family, fellow veterans, and townsfolk attended Price’s funeral May 4 at the Banks and Beals Funeral Home in his hometown, overlooking that river.

“Uncle George grew up on this river. They lived off of this river,” said Pastor Joyce Martin, who is one of Price’s seven living nieces and nephews.

They were all born after their Uncle George died, and never knew him themselves, but they do know he was especially close with his five sisters.

Martin said he was still a big part of the family, in the stories the sisters told, and in the grief they carried over the years.

“I know that the loss was great on the family. I know I often heard the sisters say that Grandma just never got over it. And I’m sure Grandpa didn’t either,” she said.

At the funeral, Martin pointed out a bouquet placed beside Price’s casket.

In it were five red roses for the sisters, two blue ones for his parents, and one white one for Uncle George.

Right beside her

Since 2015, scientists have used dental, anthropological, and DNA analysis to identify 355 of 388 service members from the USS Oklahoma who had been buried as unknown remains.

Price’s remains were identified after several of his nieces and nephews provided DNA samples.

The sailor was awarded a Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, and Navy Good Conduct Medal for his service.

Those came home with him to Dallas City. That was another emotional homecoming for the nieces and nephews, whose mothers – those five sisters – have all passed away.

“My mother was Pearl Price,” said Franklin Freeman, a veteran himself. “She loved him … so much.”

Freeman and the others now take comfort that Uncle George’s final resting place is in Harris Cemetery, in the same cemetery as his parents – and between two of those sisters, including his mother.

“So now he’ll be right beside her,” Freeman said.

Remembered as a hero

Hundreds of American flags lined the entire 2 ½ mile route between the funeral home and the cemetery.

Hundreds of people did too, some saluting as the motorcade drove past.

Rolling Thunder, which promotes the needs of veterans, escorted the white hearse carrying Price’s remains along the route, as did local police and fire departments and many of the more than 150 people who attended the funeral.

At the cemetery, a graveside service and full military honors were led by Ronald Pettigrew, navy chaplain for the Seventh Fleet, which is the same Pacific fleet Price served in.

Pettigrew said Price and the Oklahoma’s crew were dedicated to their ship and their mission.

After the playing of taps, the six sailors who carried Price’s casket removed the flag draped over it and folded the flag into a triangle.

They handed the flag to Pettigrew, who handed it to Martin, as hundreds of mourners who never met Price – but still remember him as a hero – looked on.

“On behalf of the president of the United States, the United States Navy, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our gratitude for your uncle’s service,” Pettigrew said.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.