NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A sailor native to Tennessee, who died during the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941, will be buried in the National Memorial Cemetery in Hawaii later this month.

Oliver Burger was serving aboard the USS Oklahoma during the December 7th attack. The Water Tender 1st Class was from Athens, Tennessee. At the time of the attack, he lived in San Pedro, California.

Burger was one of more than 400 crew members who were killed during the Japanese bombardment. Until recently, he was classified as POW/MIA.

Project Oklahoma was launched in 2015, as the Navy Casualty Office worked to identify the 388 sailors who were unaccounted for from the ship.

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.

Captain Robert McMahon, Director of Navy Casualty office, said, “Briefing Families, I often hear, ‘we did not believe he was dead’, ‘probably he was not onboard the ship’, ‘maybe one day he would walk through the door.'”

Since 2015, 355 remains have been matched using DNA reference samples from family members.

“Being able to recover and identify the remains of Sailors aid in closure for the families, and it is especially important to the Navy to honor these sailors who paid the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives for our country,” said Capt. McMahon.

While it’s been more than 80 years since the attack, Capt. McMahon said families are still looking for that closure.

“Most often the notification and identification briefing is emotional, overwhelming and relieving all at the same time for the families.” He continued, “Most families cannot believe their loved ones were recovered after so many years, they prayed or hoped to have closure someday.”

Burger will receive a full military burial, paid for by the Navy, on August 31 at the National Memorial Cemetery in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Oliver-Burger-Navy
Oliver Burger (Courtesy: Navy Office of Community Outreach)

He has received the following military honors: Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal (with Fleet Clasp), Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with Bronze Star), American Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal.