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Salida sailor finally laid to rest after 76 years

Verne Knipp died at Pearl Harbor

Salida sailor finally laid to rest 76 years later

SALIDA, Colo. - This Memorial Day weekend is particularly special for relatives of Verne Knipp, a Salida native killed in the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Earlier this month, the Navy positively identified his remains by using DNA samples from his sister, nephew, niece and cousin.

"The Navy had his skull and dental records to help identify him also," said Linda Sauer, Knipp's niece.

Knipp was officially buried last Friday in Auburn Cemetery near Sacramento, Calif., where his closest living relative -- sister Evelyn Blakely, 91 -- lives.

"We decided it's best to bury him there, and his sister can be next to him when she passes," said Michael Knipp, Verne Knipp's nephew.

Michael Knipp and Sauer traveled from Colorado Springs to attend their uncle's memorial ceremony.

At the start of World War II, the Navy had no protocol for handling the remains of sailors killed in action.

Knipp was aboard the USS Oklahoma, a destroyer that sank after being struck by torpedoes, killing 429 sailors -- second only to the 1,177 lost in the sinking of the USS Arizona.

The remains of Arizona victims are still inside the sunken ship, but the Navy decided during the war that it needed to do a better job of recovering remains for identification, burial and return to families.

On several occasions, the Navy buried all victims from the Oklahoma together in three different cemeteries, but several years ago exhumed some remains in an effort to identify them.

The Navy has identified approximately 40 of the 388 sailors and Marines listed as unidentified from the Oklahoma.

Verne Knipp joined the Navy after graduating from high school in 1939, rising to the rank of coxswain and posthumously being awarded a Purple Heart medal.

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