The remains of a local Navy sailor has been identified nearly 80 years after the St. Charles man died during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Navy Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Leslie P. Delles was aboard the USS Oklahoma, which was anchored at Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, when the battleship was attacked by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941.
Multiple torpedoes hit the ship, causing it to capsize. Delles, 21, was among the 429 crewmen aboard who died as a result.
Remains of the crew recovered from 1941 until June 1944 were buried in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries in Hawaii.
Three years later, members of the American Graves Registration Service exhumed the remains of the fallen U.S. personnel from the two cemeteries and transported them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks so medical examiners could attempt to identify the deceased servicemen.
Initially, only 35 men from the USS Oklahoma were identified. The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, Hawaii.
In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Delles.
Then in 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency disinterred the unknown remains of USS Oklahoma servicemen for analysis.
Delles was identified using DNA sampling and anthropological analysis Feb. 12.
A rosette will be placed next to Delles’ name on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl to indicate he has been accounted for, according to the DPAA.
A 1940 Chicago Tribune story, shared by the DPAA, shows Delles enlisted in the Navy with his twin brother, Lester Delles, when they were 19. The newspaper reported at the time that the brothers enlisted to learn a new trade; Leslie wanted to study to be an electrician, while Lester was interested in aviation mechanics.
Though Leslie and Lester were shipmates on the USS Oklahoma, Lester was sent to a San Diego naval base for special training before the attack.
The Delles’ family declined to comment through the Navy Service Casualty office.
Leslie Delles will be formally buried Oct. 23 in Sutter, California.
In total, 2,403 Americans died and an additional 1,178 were wounded in the surprise Pearl Harbor attack that led to the United States’ formal entry into World War II.