SAN DIEGO — Eighty-one years after the Japanese military made a surprise attack on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, a raid killing over 2,000 US service members and civilians, one sailor is finally being laid to rest at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

Daniel Fletcher Harris was buried Wednesday in San Diego, granting family members closure just over eight decades later. He was Chief Fire Controlman on the USS Oklahoma, one of the first battleships hit that fateful day. Chief Harris died at 41-years-old.

“We’re so thankful for the United States Navy for finding his remains and how special it was, and being able to have the DNA. It was surreal, you get the news, your kind of didn’t believe it at first,” said Shannon and Dianne Mcke, who are both granddaughters to Chief Harris.

“The bittersweet moment is that he died for his country and his family has been living life without him. But the goodness of it is that he’s finally home and his family can now know that he is resting here locally in San Diego.” 

ROBERT NOWAKOWSKI, VICE COMMANDER, NAVAL FORCES CENTRAL COMMAND 

Harris is one out of 355 service members who have been identified following the 2015 USS Oklahoma disinterment. Before the 2015 disinterment, 388 service members were unaccounted for.

These identifications are made by scientists at Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) labs in Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii and Offutt Air Force Base, Nebrask,. All work to identify past-conflict sailors, according to Capt. Robert McMahon, Director of the Navy Casualty Office.

Remains are identified using DNA reference samples from USS Oklahoma families. DoD now has
more than 361 of required samples to support DNA analysis on Oklahoma remains as well as
many medical and dental records from the Oklahoma service members, Capt. McMahon reported.

The DNA profiling process begins with a sample of an individual’s DNA, typically called a
“reference sample.” During Project Oklahoma, the Navy reached out to families via letters and phone calls requesting their participation in the Family Reference Sample Program in efforts to possibly make a positive match and identify their loved one lost on the USS Oklahoma.

Although Chief Harris was born in South Carolina, he was once based at a San Diego Naval training station back in 1937 before serving aboard the USS Oklahoma. It’s a city holding a special place in the hearts of family members, as both Hariss’ wife and daughter are also buried in San Diego.

“My mother and grandmother are here in San Diego, laid to rest, it’s very special now that we’re here,” Mcke shared.

Wednesday’s ceremony marked a legacy passed along to future generations, one rooted in courage, honor and commitment.