SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — One of Sioux City’s World War II heroes was finally able to come home Friday, more than 80 years after he gave his life serving his country.
Harry Nichols was a Storekeeper Third Class in the United States Navy, a man who volunteered to serve his country during the uncertain days of World War II.
Now, more than 80 years after making the ultimate sacrifice for his country during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Nichols’ family gathered to finally lay him to rest at Memorial Park Cemetery next to his parents and brother.
Mark Nichols is Harry’s nephew and talked about how the journey to bring his uncle back to Iowa began.
“It was probably back in ’18 that I’d actually submitted my DNA to 23 and Me and I get a phone call out of the blue, some guy in, I think Delaware, saying that the Navy was looking for somebody related to Harry Nichols to basically get their DNA from so they could identify him,” said Mark.
Nichols voluntarily enlisted before turning 20, and on December 7, 1941, was one of the more than 400 soldiers who lost their lives on the U.S.S. Oklahoma.
Rear Admiral Terry Eddinger traveled from North Carolina to lead the service and explained that the Oklahoma was one of the first created battleships for us in World War I but found itself in a tragic spot on Pearl Harbor Day.
“Upgraded in the ’20s, late ’20s, to be a modern battleship and it’d just gotten in on December the 5th late at night and unfortunately the only place that was available was just outside the U.S.S. Maryland and so it was in a prime location to catch the first torpedoes,” Eddinger explained.
Only about 25 bodies were able to be identified when officials uncovered the U.S.S. Oklahoma remains in 1943 with the rest buried in a mass gravesite at Punch Bowl Cemetary in Honolulu.
Now, Harry Nichols is back in Siouxland with his family honoring him as an American hero.
“Totally overwhelmed, I mean, totally overwhelmed. Very difficult to keep my composure. This will be a day that we’ll never forget,” Mark said.
Rear Admiral Eddinger said the navy will continue doing DNA work to fully identify the rest of the deceased from that devastating day in American history more than 80 years ago.