With his remains only recently identified, a central Minnesota man who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor will be buried this week near where he grew up.
Navy Fireman 1st Class Elmer Kerestes, of Holdingford, was aboard the USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941, during Japan’s assault on the base in Hawaii, an attack that launched the United States headlong into World War II.
After the remains were gathered at that time, Navy laboratory staff could only identify 35. In 2015, all unidentified remains were exhumed for analysis.
Earlier this year, DNA confirmed that one set of remains was that of Kerestes, putting in motion his burial Saturday at Highland Cemetery near Holdingford.
On Thursday, military officials will bring Kerestes’ remains to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. From there, law enforcement, members of veterans support groups and family will provide escort along Interstate 94 to the funeral home in Melrose.
Following burial services Saturday starting at 10:30 a.m., the Kerestes family will host a gathering with food and refreshments at the Holdingford American Legion, which is named in honor of Kerestes and Joseph Troxil, who died at sea while in the Navy.
Holdingford Mayor Susan Marstein said in a statement that people can pay tribute to Kerestes by lining the route to the cemetery and “waving the U.S. flag in his honor.”
The American Battle Monuments Commission gives a fairly detailed account of the fate of the USS Oklahoma while it was moored in Pearl Harbor and the fate of the some of the remains.
Heavy enemy fire quickly capsized the Oklahoma, leading to the deaths of 429 crew members. Only the USS Arizona suffered more fatalities.
The recovery of remains from the Oklahoma spanned more than 2½ years. The remains were interred in cemeteries in Hawaii and exhumed in 1947. With only 35 identified then, the remainder were ordered disinterred in 2015.