LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The remains of twins who joined the Navy together in 1938 have been returned to Lincoln for burial, decades after their deaths on a battleship at Pearl Harbor.
Two ceremonies will be held in succession Saturday at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery for Rudolph Blitz and his brother, Leo Blitz. There will be two caskets, two 21-gun salutes, two invocations, and two flags presented to their surviving sister, 93-year-old Betty Pitsch of Lincoln. Her DNA contribution helped bring her older brothers home.
The 17-year-old twins left Lincoln High to join the Navy and had been stationed at Pearl Harbor for a year and a day when, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked and the USS Oklahoma went down.
“It’s really hard to use the term ‘uncles,’ because they were always ‘the boys,'” said Sandy Cox, a niece born five years later. “The boys or the twins, that’s how they were referred to in the stories we were told.”
The twins’ parents, Marie and Henry Blitz, married in 1913, a widow and widower with six children between them. The Lincoln Journal Star reported that the Blitzes raised those six and nine more of their own in Lincoln. Up to 80 of the boys’ nieces and nephews from several states are expected at the services.
The twins remains had been buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu mixed with those of nearly 430 other sailors and Marines. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency unearthed the remains in 2015 and shipped them to a laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha for identification.
This spring, using a DNA sample provided by the twins’ sister and other records, the lab was able to put names to the remains.
“I think it’s going to be emotional, but I don’t know if sad is really the word for it,” Cox said of the pending ceremonies. “We know it’s something our parents would have wanted, our grandparents would have wanted.”