LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The family who buried Pearl Harbor Sailor James Cheshire in Arlington National Cemetery Friday didn't even know he existed until last year.
Cheshire was Betty Tucker's great uncle. She says, "These guys that died in World War 2 as they say, it's greatest generation. He deserves all the honor he gets and I'm happy to be a part of it."
Cheshire was a sailor from New Hope, Kentucky aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma when he died during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
He joined the U.S. Navy at 18 years old and completed 22 years in service.
"He'd just reupped in 1940. So, had he chosen not to continue his career, he would not have been on board that fateful day," Tucker said.
Cheshire was a Chief Pharmacist's Mate and would've likely been in the medical station on the lower decks, serving in the ship's sick bay.
His descendent, Betty Tucker, said the odds were against him ever escaping the Japanese torpedo attacks on Dec. 7, 1941.
The ship was hit at least five times and capsized within 12 minutes.
"He wouldn't have had a change to get out," Tucker said.
The Oklahoma rolled over and sank to the harbor bottom. Many men were trapped in the lower decks banging on steel walls until they took their last breaths.
Tucker says, "Not only heart wrenching for those men, but those above the surface who could hear that banging and not do anything about it. I mean, how hard was that to endure?"
The last communication from Cheshire was a letter he wrote to his son just days before the attack.
With more than 1,200 men on board, 429 went down with the ship. Years later personal items were sent to families but many of the bodies recovered could not be identified.
James Cheshire was one of 394 unidentified Oklahoma crew members originally buried in Hawaii. As of last year, DNA analysis had identified all but 48 of them.
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