A Minnesota World War II veteran has finally come home. While Navy Seaman First Class Joseph Johnson’s remains have come home, others weren’t so lucky. Four Minnesota soldiers from the USS Oklahoma have yet to be identified. For family members of Joseph Johnson, they’re happy he’s home.
Johnson was killed in action on December 7th, 1941 while onboard the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He went missing for decades, until recent DNA testing identified his remains. Johnson is the 5th Minnesota sailor to be identified and returned home from the Oklahoma. His long-awaited funeral was held Saturday in Rushford.
"I think this is an important issue for all the families that have lost individuals in wartime," says Johnson’s nephew Dennis Rislove, "Obviously, I’m 74 years old, he died two and a half years before I was born. So, I never met him and never talked to him. But it’s one of those things that’s kind of a family legend. You know, you hear the stories and you feel like you know him."
Rislove has a message for other families who may be waiting for missing veterans to return home: appreciate the efforts being made to try to bring relatives back.
"I think the message is that freedom isn’t free," he says, "And that plays well in the memorial services that are being conducted for all these sailors being returned."
Fellow veterans honored Johnson Saturday at his service. Information from the Defense POW MIA Accounting Agency shows 14-hundred Minnesota service members from World War II are still unaccounted for.