Boaz native who died in Pearl Harbor attack finally laid to rest

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BOAZ, Ala. — The Boaz community showed up in droves Saturday afternoon to honor one of the first fallen in the attack that would begin America’s fight in World War II.

Ralph Shell lived his early life with his parents and grandparents unable to pay proper tribute to his uncle, Navy Fireman 2nd Class Ralph Curtis Battles, thought to be lost forever after the USS Oklahoma suffered many torpedoes from a Japanese submarine in the Pearl Harbor attack.

“I think the tragic thing about it is the fact that they never got to experience the closure that you get from laying a loved one to rest,” Shell said. “They always expressed the desire for it, and I wish they were here today.”

But Shell told News 19 that his family received a call in April that changed everything: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) had positively identified Battles’ remains after using a DNA sample submitted by Shell and his siblings.

It allowed the family, community, and the U.S. Navy to finally give the sailor a hero’s welcome and a funeral with full military honors.

“We leave no man behind,” Shell said. “The Navy has definitely proven that. December 7th, 2021 will be 80 years. And for them to do what they did just speaks volumes for their dedication to their own members.”

Around 50 sailors of the USS Oklahoma remain unidentified. When asked for advice he’d give the families of those men whose DNA haven’t yet been positively matched, Shell said to simply not give up hope, because his family never did.

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