A flag-draped casket containing the remains of a U.S. Navy sailor killed in World War II made a stop in Woodbury before reaching its final resting place.
U.S. Navy Fire Controlman First Class Edward J. Shelden was honored Thursday, June 20 at Wulff Woodbury Funeral Home before a Friday morning ceremony at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, where he was buried. His remains were identified in July 2018.
Related contentShelden, 29, from Indianapolis, was serving on the battleship USS Oklahoma when it was hit by a torpedo during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Shelden was one of 429 crewmembers killed in the attack on the ship, according to his profile on the U.S. Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency website.
"We just never thought this day would come," Shelden's niece and oldest living next-of-kin, Joan Fritz, said. "I mean, you know, it's been 70-some years, and we just didn't think ... we would ever be able to do this, so it's quite incredible."
Fritz's living siblings, Mary Smith, Kathleen Moreland and Robert Cooney, also attended the ceremonies.
Fritz lived in Woodbury for about 30 years and recently moved to a senior living facility in Oakdale. She was only 1 year old when Shelden visited his sister, Marian Shelden Cooney, Fritz's mother, while on leave from the Navy. He brought Fritz and her mother kimonos from Japan, where he had been stationed.
Cooney and her husband are also buried at Fort Snelling.
"(He) was my mother's only brother, and they lost their parents at a very young age, and so that's all my mother had," Fritz said. "I'm so happy for her he was finally able to be brought home. It's a dream that she just never did think would be."
Gov. Tim Walz issued a proclamation declaring June 21, 2019, "Edward Shelden Day."
After initial efforts in 1947, only 35 of the men killed on the USS Oklahoma could be identified. The rest were buried in Honolulu's National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the "Punchbowl," and classified as "non-recoverable" in October 1949 by a military board.
That was until a 2015 memorandum issued by the deputy secretary of defense set in motion the exhumation of remains associated with the USS Oklahoma. Using mitochondrial DNA, dental and anthropological analysis, along with circumstantial evidence, scientists with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System were able to identify Shelden.
More than 400,000 Americans died in World War II, and there are 72,744 people still unaccounted for. About 26,000 of them are "possibly-recoverable," according to the agency's website.