80 years after attack on Pearl Harbor, a USS Oklahoma sailor’s family finally has closure

After Pearl Harbor, these telegrams told his parents he was missing and presumed dead. Relatives carried that unknown for eight decades.
Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 5:10 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 30, 2021 at 8:07 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - During the attack on Pearl Harbor, fighter planes from Imperial Japan targeted the USS Oklahoma, killing 429 sailors and Marines.

Among them was 23-year-old Laverne Nigg.

“He joined the Navy at 18, I believe. He was the fourth oldest of 12 children,” said his niece, Darlynn Taylor.

Nigg grew up in a big family in a small town in Minnesota. After Pearl Harbor, telegrams notified his parents that he was missing and presumed dead. His relatives carried that question mark for 80 years.

“Our family never got to bring him home,” Taylor said.

Nigg’s remains were among hundreds co-mingled in graves marked Unknown at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

The Defense Department disinterred the remains and has managed to identify about 90% of them.

“When I heard that they were going to start exhuming the remains and seeing if they can identify any of these Navy men, I got really excited. I thought, ‘Wow! This might actually happen,’” Taylor said.

In September, Nigg’s relatives received the good news.

“Getting that letter 80 years later that they did identify him was just crazy. It was amazing!” Taylor said.

Three of Nigg’s cousins were also on the Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941. They survived the attack.

The military awarded Nigg medals for his service. His death inspired his younger siblings.

“The reason my dad joined the Navy was because of his older brother,” Taylor said.

In Browns Valley, Minnesota, a marker above an empty grave shows where Nigg’s family will lay his remains to rest.

“A lot of my cousins are still there,” Taylor said. “We all talked about going back and doing this all together.”

She said it feels fitting that her uncle was identified just before the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack that honors the sacrifice made by thousands of service members and civilians.

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