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Twin brother sailors who perished at Pearl Harbor finally identified

Navy Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Leo Blitz, and Navy Fireman 1st Class Rudolph Blitz, both 20, of Lincoln, Nebraska, died on Dec. 7, 1941 after the battleship Oklahoma capsized at Ford Island. (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency/Released)
July 05, 2019

The remains of twin brothers who perished at Pearl Harbor can be returned to their hometown on Nebraska after finally being identified.

Like many other unknown casualties, the brothers’ remains had been buried in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu all this time, according to a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) news release last week.

The DPAA confirmed that the remains belonged to twin brothers, Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Leo Blitz and Fireman 1st Class Rudolph Blitz. The confirmation took place on May 21 and was conducted using state of the art DNA technology.

The Blitz brothers will be reburied on August 10 by the remaining family in Lincoln, Neb. where many of the Blitz family has been laid to rest.

The brothers had joined the Navy “kitty cruise,” which is a short enlistment for new sailors 18-21 years old, their nephew Ernie Powell told The Coloradoan.

Both were 20 at the time of their deaths and were assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma when it and other vessels were attacked by Japanese planes on Dec. 7, 1941. The ship sank quickly after it was hit with multiple torpedoes.

The Blitz brothers were among 429 sailors who perished day.

The family of Leo and Rudolph Blitz were told about the twins’ death but never received any detailed account of what happened.

Not until a ceremony held some years later to honor the end of WWII did the family even know that one died in the attack on the ship and the other died trying to swim to Ford Island during the attack.

The details were released decades later by a Pearl Harbor survivor named Harry Hanson in California. Hanson sent a letter to another of Leo and Rudolph Blitz’s nephews, Mike Powell.

Hanson described the events that unfolded. He explained that Rudolph Blitz was patrolling on deck when the ship was attacked by the Japanese. Leo Blit was below deck attending to a generator.

Hanson said he was with Rudolph Blitz when he said, “I’m going down to get my brother,” but Hanson never saw Blitz again after that.

Ernie Powell said the family submitted DNA samples to the DPAA in 2015 when they began the process of identifying remains of unidentified sailors who perished with the USS Oklahoma.

On May 21, the twins’ remains were positively identified. As it turned out, they were already in Nebraska at the DPAA laboratory at the Offutt Air Force Base outside of Omaha where forensic anthropologists were conducting the analysis.