Joe Hittorff, Jr. (Dec 2, 1916- Dec 7, 1941)

Joe Hittorff was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the Victory Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the American Defense Medal.

JosephPHittorffJr5From the obituary, which I purloined:

“Ensign Joseph Parker Hittorff, Jr. was born in Kingston, NJ. He died 25 years later on the Oklahoma after it was bombed in Pearl Harbor… Joe (or Bud, as his older sister Marion called him) was the son of Joseph Peter Hittorff [d. in 1961 at age 84] and Ethel (Van Wagenen) Hittorff [d. 1933 when Joe was 17]…

“In June of 1936, he entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis and graduated in 1940. His initial assignment was serving on board the battleship USS Oklahoma, a 583 foot battleship attached to the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii…

“Joe sent frequent letters home. In one from November 2, 1941, he expressed concern that there were war clouds on the horizon, and he was ‘expecting the worst — and hoping for the best’.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The Oklahoma sank, and Joe was among the casualties along with 395 enlisted men and 19 other officers.

“Seven days [after Pearl Harbor], a telegram was sent to his parents and sister [informing them he] was lost in action. Joe’s Naval Academy ring was recovered from the wreckage at a later time. Also returned to the family was a ceremonial sword from Annapolis. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the Victory Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the American Defense Medal.

“On March 7, 2016, seventy-four years and three months later, Joe’s remaining family members were notified that his remains had been identified after being disinterred from the Punch Bowl Cemetery in Hawaii. Sadly, his oldest living relative, Marie Camp of South Kent, CT passed away early this April. Marie, her sister Amy Nissen of Nassau, NY [mother of my late friend Norm Nissen], and cousin Norma Medlicott of Zephyrhills, FL were all first cousins of Joe and Marion.
A funeral [took place] June 18 [2016] at the Kent Congregational Church, Kent CT with burial immediately after in the Kent Congregational Cemetery.

A 2008 article from the Philadelphia Inquirer continues the narrative:

“You can imagine the shock to Hittorff’s sister, Marion _ now 98 [since deceased] and living in a Collingswood, N.J. nursing home – when she learned recently that bits of her brother’s body might have been recovered decades ago, and might lie in a grave marked “unknown” at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

“The U.S. military just this year identified three other Oklahoma casualties buried as unknowns in the cemetery. A veterans group wants additional graves – including one that may hold Hittorff’s remains – to be opened…

“Marion Hittorff was dazzled by the men in ‘shining white.’ Two Navy chiefs, in their starched dress uniforms, had come to her room to take DNA swabs from her mouth.”

Marie Camp’s daughter Dianne Lang picks up the story in June 2016, just before Joe’s burial; you should read her piece in full:

“Back in the present, progress is slow. A staggering number of military remains have not yet been matched to individuals. Over 73,000 veterans from WWII alone have never been identified. The backlog for the DNA identification facilities is incredible…

“One of the graves cited by the Oklahoma researcher has recently been exhumed as some DNA samples from relatives have been obtained. A startling result! Instead of the remains of 5 individuals in the one casket, there are at least 46 individuals represented. How could this be?…

“Eighteen months after the attack, the Oklahoma was finally righted. At this point, the remains were only bones. It was expected that there would be a group burial. All of the recovered skulls were put in one casket, all of the femurs in another, and so on, meaning all of the remains were mixed. After the request for a group burial was rejected, the people in charge were directed to put the parts representing a complete skeleton together. Their only recourse was to choose the parts that they felt might have belonged together. Hence the confusion…

“We are nearing closure for Joe. I wonder later if my joyful voice was inappropriate. Sadness comes at other times as I look at this picture of a relative I never knew who gave his life for all of us. He was young, handsome, and by all accounts, a nice gentleman of good character. I wish he had had the opportunity to experience a full life with all that it might have brought. I wonder if I would have ever met him.”

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