Burial service held for Alabama veteran identified from WWII

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – A World War II veteran who perished in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 was laid to rest at the Alabama National Cemetery on Friday, Oct. 18.

United States Navy Mess Attendant 1st Class Johnnie Cornelius Laurie, 25, of Bessemer was among the 429 crewmen aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma who were killed during an attack by Japanese aircraft at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Laurie’s remains were identified in July 2019, according to a press release from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Blue Star Salute Foundation board members Tom Long and Harry Sessamen presented a Gold Star Banner to Laurie’s family.

They also presented on behalf of Gov. Kay Ivey a Governor’s Certificate of Memory and a Commendation for Military Service to Laurie’s family.

“The service of Johnnie Cornelius Laurie to our country is greatly appreciated by members of the community, county and the state of Alabama,” Long said.

In addition, a flag flown over the Alabama Capitol in honor of Laurie on Sept. 11 was presented to his family.

“We share the pride you have in the service of Johnnie Cornelius Laurie and are grateful for his return home to the great state of Alabama,” Long said.

According to his obituary from Faith Memorial Chapel Funeral Services, Laurie, the son of Annie B. Laurie/White, graduated from Dunbar High School in Bessemer and joined the U.S. Navy in 1930.

Laurie’s return to Alabama came 77 years after his death in the Pacific Theater.

“From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries,” the DPAA release read. “In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Laurie.”

In 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis. Scientists used dental and anthropological analysis, circumstantial and material evidence, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA analysis to identify the remains, according to the release.

More than 72,000 U.S. service men and women from WWII are still unidentified and classified as missing.