Quick Takes

Navy Seaman 1st Class Elmer P. Lawrence comes home from Pearl Harbor

By: - July 21, 2023 10:26 am

Rescue teams at work on the capsized hull of USS Oklahoma (BB-37), seeking crew members trapped inside, 7 December 1941. The starboard bilge keel is visible at the top of the upturned hull. Officers’ Motor Boats from Oklahoma and USS Argonne (AG-31) are in the foreground. USS Maryland (BB-46) is in the background.( Official U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.)

Navy Seaman 1st Class Elmer P. Lawrence, 25, of Park City, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Feb. 1, 2021. (Photo provided by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency)

For decades, Elmer P. Lawrence was unaccounted for after dying at Pearl Harbor.

Now, he’ll be buried this weekend 13 minutes from his hometown. 

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which works to identify soldiers lost, announced in June that its scientists had identified Lawrence in 2021 and would send him home for burial. 

Navy Seaman 1st Class Lawrence was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which capsized after being torpedoed in 1941. He was one of 429 crew members to die that day. The DPAA says 365 have now been identified. 

Lawrence enlisted in Louisville in 1940, a year before his death, at age 23. 

The Japanese attack on the U.S. fleet in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, brought the United States into World War II.

Lawrence was awarded many honors for his service: the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with Bronze Star), American Defense Service Medal (with Fleet Clasp), World War II Victory Medal and the American Campaign Medal. 

Lawrence will be buried during a 3:30 p.m. service Saturday in the Shilo Cemetery in Railton in his native Barren County, according to the Navy Office of Community Outreach.

Gov. Andy Beshear has ordered flags in Kentucky to fly half-staff on Saturday to honor Lawrence. 

A rosette will be placed next to Lawrence’s name on the Walls of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl Cemetery, in Honolulu to let people know he’s been found and identified. 

“We are saddened to acknowledge the death of another young Kentuckian who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Beshear said in a statement. “But we are gratified that modern science and military determination has, against all odds, found him and will bring him home.”


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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky who's covered everything from crime to higher education. She spent nearly two years on the metro breaking news desk at The Courier Journal. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. As the Kentucky Lantern's health reporter, she focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, children's welfare, COVID-19 and more.