“They politely told me to go you-know-where,” Emory told The Associated Press in an interview at his Honolulu home, where he keeps a “war room” packed with documents, charts and maps. Military and veterans policy called for changing grave markers only if remains are identified, an inscription is mistaken or a marker is damaged.
Emory appealed to the late Patsy Mink, a Hawaii congresswoman who inserted a provision in an appropriations bill requiring Veterans Affairs to include “USS Arizona” on gravestones of unknowns from that battleship.
Today, unknowns from other vessels like the USS Oklahoma and USS West Virginia also have new markers.
Some of the dead, like those turned to ash, likely will never be identified, but Emory knew some could be.
The Navy’s 1941 burial records noted that one body, burned and floating in the harbor, was found wearing shorts with the name “Livingston.” Only two men named Livingston were assigned to Pearl Harbor at the time, and one of the two was accounted for. Emory suspected the body was the other Livingston.
Government forensic scientists exhumed him. Dental records, a skeletal analysis and circumstantial evidence confirmed Emory’s suspicions. The remains belonged to Alfred Livingston, a 23-year-old fireman first class assigned to the USS Oklahoma.
Livingston’s nephew, Ken Livingston, said his uncle and his father were raised together by their grandmother and attended the same one-room schoolhouse. They grew up working on farms in and around Worthington, Ind. Livingston remembers his dad saying the brothers took turns wearing a pair of shoes they shared.
When the family learned Alfred was found, they brought him home from Hawaii to be buried in the same cemetery where his grandmother and mother rest.
About a third of the town showed up for his 2007 memorial service in Worthington, a town of just 1,400 about 80 miles southwest of Indianapolis. The local American Legion put up a sign welcoming home “Worthington’s missing son.”