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By Donald W. Meyers
Yakima Herald-Republic 

Vet Is Home

'It's A Miracle': Yakima, Wash., Man Killed In Pearl Harbor Attack Is Home

 
Series: Veterans In The News | Story 59

USS Oklahoma

By Donald W. Meyers Yakima Herald-Republic

Eighty-one years (2022) after he joined the U.S. Navy, Patrick Lloyd Chess is back home in Yakima.

Chess, who was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, was laid to rest Saturday in the veterans section of Tahoma Cemetery, Yakima, Wash. About 100 people attended the service, in which Chess was buried with full military honors by the U.S. Navy.

For Chess' family members, the service was the fulfillment of a hope spanning generations.

He Is Now Home

"It's a miracle," said his niece, Crystal Chess. "It is amazing that he is now home."

Chess' return was made possible through DNA samples provided by family members seven years ago to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which works to identify the remains of U.S. service members.

Chess was born Nov. 28, 1917, in Yakima, the youngest of eight children of James and Josephine Chess. He worked on farms, said his great-niece, Darrilyn Cranney, and joined the Navy on Oct. 11, 1940.

Assigned To USS Oklahoma

On Dec. 13, 1940, he was assigned to the crew of USS Oklahoma, one of the Navy's battleships, as a shipfitter.

Oklahoma was moored off Ford Island at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, when it was hit by nine torpedoes from Japanese bombers. The ship capsized, trapping hundreds of sailors and marines in its hull.

429 Died

While some of the trapped sailors made it out, some through holes cut in the overturned hull by rescuers, 429 - including Chess - died on the ship, with their remains eventually recovered after Oklahoma was righted.

By 1947, only 35 of the remains were identified, and Chess and the rest of his shipmates were declared "nonrecoverable" by the Navy and buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

Awarded The Purple Heart

Chess, a third-class petty officer, was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

But Chess' family never gave up hope that one day he would be brought back to Yakima.

"His mother always wanted him to come home," Crystal Chess said.

Cranney said family members visited Hawaii several times, seeing his name on a plaque near the USS Arizona memorial, inscribed in the Courts of the Missing at the national cemetery in Honolulu and at the USS Oklahoma Memorial on Ford Island, where 429 white pillars are arranged to represent the dead shipmates as if they were "manning the rails."

Enter DNA Technology

In 2015, the POW/MIA Accounting Agency re-opened the case of the Oklahoma's crew. Armed with DNA technology, the government had the Oklahoma crew exhumed and brought to the laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for testing.

Several Chess family members supplied DNA samples that could compared with the remains.

Chess Identified

In 2020, the Chess family received the news they were waiting for: Chess had been identified. While they learned that Chess was found, his nephews who spearheaded the effort to bring him back to Yakima, David Chess and Willis Raltz, died as funeral plans were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Crystal Chess and other family members took over Chess' homecoming, which began Monday when his remains were flown to Seattle and brought back to Yakima in a procession escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders and various police agencies.

Memorabilia At Viewing

More than 70 people attended a viewing for Chess at Shaw & Sons in Yakima Friday, where memorabilia, including the telegram telling the family that Chess had been lost, were displayed alongside his flag-draped casket.

Saturday, the funeral procession, with the Patriot Guard Riders providing motorcycle escort, entered the cemetery's east entrance, under an American flag strung between two Yakima Fire Department ladder trucks, and past his parents' graves to the veterans section of the cemetery. There, a Navy honor guard in dress white uniforms placed Chess' casket atop his grave and folded the flag.

Tahoma Cemetery, Yakima, Wash.

"Amazing Grace"

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Theodore LeClair, deputy director for operations for the Indo-Pacific Command, presented the flag to Crystal Chess. U.S. Army soldiers fired a 21-gun salute and a bagpiper played "Amazing Grace".

Chess' family members were grateful for the support and his return to Yakima.

"Something that wasn't right has been made right," said Lance Chess, a second-great-nephew of Chess.

Editor's Note: I have reprinted this story from the Yakima Herald-Republic because it holds such special interest for me. Yakima, Wash., is my home town, and my brother (Don Lemon, Army, WWII) is also buried there in Tahoma Cemetery. This reprint is to honor them both and all who have served.

 

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