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2017 dava recipient

2017 Distinguished Alumni Veteran Raymond D. Emory, ’52, U.S. Navy

by Julie Garner
Columns Magazine

On Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese warplanes rained hellfire on Pearl Harbor, Ray Emory manned a machine gun on the deck of the USS Honolulu. The courage he displayed on what President Franklin Roosevelt called “a date which will live in infamy” was only the beginning of a journey that would require another type of courage and persistence.

When Emory retired to Hawaii in 1985, he visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu and was shocked to find that many of the sailors who were killed at Pearl Harbor were buried as unknown. The graves didn’t even list the name of the ships on which they served. That spurred Emory, ’52, who holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the College of Built Environments, to begin a 20-year fight to find their identities and return the remains to their families so they could be buried with the honor they deserved.

For his courage under fire and for his unyielding effort to see that these fallen Pearl Harbor veterans received their due from the country they served, the UW presented Emory with the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Veterans Award.

In going through the Navy’s 1941 burial records, Emory identified the first “unknown.” The body was exhumed and government forensic scientists determined that the remains were those of Thomas Hembree, a 17-year-old apprentice seaman from Kennewick who served on the USS Curtiss. Fast-forward three decades to March 5, 2002: Hembree was given a proper military funeral with honors and was laid to rest in a ceremony attended by many family members.

To date, 30 of those fallen servicemen have been identified. Yet because of Emory’s work and the pressure he applied, the Department of Defense is still at work exhuming, identifying and returning remains to families.

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor killed more than 2,400 U.S. personnel. Of the bodies that were recovered, one-quarter were never identified. Emory, who is now 96 years old, has ensured that those service personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice will finally receive the honors they deserve.

 

 

For more information about DAVA and the previous recipients, visit uwalum.com/dava.