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Published on: Monday, July 8, 2024 read more ...

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Sailor Who Dove off the USS Oklahoma Identified Eight Decades Later

By Kevin M. Hymel on 5/20/2024

During the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, 20-year-old Seaman First Class Frank “Cremo” Hryniewicz dove off the battleship USS Oklahoma to escape strafing enemy aircraft. He never resurfaced. Although his remains were later recovered from the ship, they could not be identified and were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

Eight days after the attack, one of Hryniewicz’s older brothers wrote him a letter, asking “Cremo” to write back. “Last Sunday we heard the Oklahoma had been sent to the bottom of Pearl Harbor, ever since then we’ve been sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear from you or from the Navy Department.” He added a postscript: “You’re now an uncle as of last Thursday 8:30 a.m.”

In 2015, members of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) began examining unknown remains from the cemetery. Four years later, DPAA identified Hryniewicz’s remains. They contacted family members for DNA samples, which led to Hryniewicz’s positive identification. “I felt so joyful that we could finally give him peace,” said Frances Griffin, one of Hryniewicz’s nieces. Unfortunately, her father—who had written the aforementioned letter to his brother—had passed away three days before DPAA called.

On May 16, 2024, a Navy color guard, dressed in crisp white uniforms, marched Hryniewicz’s urn and a folded American flag to Arlington National Cemetery’s Section 55. Nine members of Hryniewicz’s family, mostly nieces and nephews and their children, had come together for the funeral service. The guard placed the urn on a platform and unfolded the flag over it.

Chaplain (Lt.) Steven Walker told the family, “Frank Alfonse Hryniewicz, U.S. Navy, takes his rightful place here among the ranks of our nation’s heroes.” Walker then spoke about how Hryniewicz had enlisted in 1940 and found himself assigned to the USS Oklahoma until that fateful day. “He gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Walker, “giving his life for his nation to preserve our freedoms and our way of life.”

The color guard then folded the flag and handed it to Rear Adm. Scott Pappano, who presented it to Griffin, on behalf of a grateful nation.

After the funeral service, Griffin spoke about her uncle’s death. “He and a friend, a fellow sailor, dove off, and they knew he died because his friend came up and Uncle Frankie did not.”

Griffin’s sister Joanne regretted that their own father did not live to see the service. “One of the things our father wanted more than anything was for his baby brother to come home,” she said. “We’re delighted that he’s buried here, where he belongs with his shipmates.”