World War II Navy Signalman Third Class Austin Henry Hesler was laid to rest at Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery Friday, nearly 80 years after he perished in the attack on Pearl Harbor, his remains unidentifiable for decades until a recent DNA test helped reunite him with family.
“It’s very touching,” said Katherine Ayala, Hesler’s great-niece, at the memorial service. “It’s wonderful ... I can come visit and know where he’s at. We’ll come every year.”
According to a press release from the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services, Hesler was 21 years old when his ship, the USS Oklahoma, was hit by a torpedo on December 7, 1941.
Hesler was killed in the attack along with 429 crewmen. The ship was recovered in 1944. In 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency embarked on a project to re-examine the National Cemetery of the Pacific unidentified remains with DNA testing. DPAA confirmed it identified Hesler’s remains on Feb. 24, 2021.
More information in today's feature.