KELLOGG, Minn. — In a small, tree-covered cemetery near where he was raised, Lloyd Timm of Kellogg was laid to rest Monday Sept. 6,, 80 years after he and hundreds of other sailors were killed aboard the USS Oklahoma during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
As a crowd quietly watched, Timm's flag-draped coffin was carried by six sailors. Officers resplendent in full dress whites saluted as it was carried to his burial spot.
The full-honors funeral came two years after Timm's relatives learned that his remains had been identified with the help of DNA testing.
Lloyd Ness, a nephew of Timm's, said he and his cousins were given the option of burying him at Fort Snelling National Cemetery or a cemetery closer to home.
"We decided to bring him home," Ness said.
Timm's remains were flown into Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Sept. 3, greeted by a Color Guard and two dozen relatives and friends and spouses of the relatives. As his casket was transferred to a hearse, the entire airline crew stood quietly and people inside the terminal watched through the windows. Police escorted the hearse to Wabasha, Minnesota, running through red lights.
"It was very surreal and very respectful," Ness said.
Timm joined the Navy in 1941, a year after graduating from Kellogg High School. Much of the world was then at war, but the U.S. was still at peace. The coordinated attack on Pearl Harbor took place in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 1941. The Oklahoma, on which Timm served, capsized after taking several torpedo hits, resulting in the death of 429 crewmen. The attack brought the U.S. into the war.
Timm was 19 when he died.
Ness, a Woodbury, Minnesota, resident who was named after Timm, says his uncle wasn't frequently discussed in the family. That's because his mother, Timm's younger sister, was only a toddler when Timm went off to serve in the Navy. Yet, his memory influenced Ness' life as he grew older by giving him perspective on life's hardships.
"When I thought I was having a bad day, I would think of my uncle," Ness said. "Here was a man that joined the military. (He) didn't know there was going to be a war, a surprise attack. And at the age of 19, he gave his life."
Ness said he doesn't know why Timm joined the Navy, but it's easy to imagine that economic hardship played a role. Still in the shadow of the Great Depression, Kellogg was a hardscrabble community. His dad, when he was a boy, was sent to live with his uncle, because his parents couldn't feed him. The military offered food, shelter and the ability to make some money.
Timm's remains went unidentified for nearly 80 years. Soon after the attack and through June 1944, the remains of those who died in the Oklahoma were recovered and interred at two cemeteries in Hawaii. In 1947, the remains were disinterred from the two cemeteries by officials and sent to a lab for identification.
But only 35 out of the 429 killed were identified, according to the National Park Service website. The rest were buried as "unknown" in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punch Bowl, in Honolulu.
In 2003, efforts at identifying the sailors were renewed — and began to bear fruit. Using anthropological and DNA evidence, scientists were able to identify the remains of five sailors from one disinterred casket that contained the remains of 95 commingled individuals. In 2015, the effort broadened. Personnel from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency began exhuming the rest of the remains from the cemetery for analysis.
Four years ago, Ness and all of his first-born cousins submitted DNA samples to the military through a mouth swab. Two years later, officials told them that some of Timm's remains — a skull, an arm bone and a leg bone — had been identified.
Through it all, Ness has been amazed at the military's commitment and dedication to bringing "these guys home."
"It seems like a great idea to do this, but that they would actually go through all this and then make it happen. I don't know, if you made me bet my house, which way I would have bet," Ness said.
There is sadness mixed in with awe in the moment. The people who knew Timm and cherished his memory, including three brothers and two sisters, had all died by the time Timm's remains were brought home.
"The reason I felt so sad about it was: It took 80 years to do this," Ness said. "If this had happened 20 or 30 years ago, all his brothers and sisters would have been alive. They were the ones that knew him and were close to him and suffered the greatest amount of loss."