HOLYOKE – A Holyoke sailor, one of 98 men of the battleship USS California killed in the Pearl Harbor attack Dec. 7, 1941, is returning having been identified through modern DNA technology.
Pharmacist's Mate 2nd Class Merle Hillman was born in Chicopee in 1916, according to Navy records. But he listed Holyoke as his hometown when he enlisted in the Navy in 1937.
As pharmacist ‘s mate, Hillman would have been providing emergency care to his shipmates during the battle.
He was 25 when he died on what President Franklin D. Roosevelt would call the “day that would live in infamy.”
Honored periodically at Holyoke observances of Pearl Harbor Day, Hillman was one of 25 “unknowns” associated with the USS California resting together at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. They were all disinterred in January and March 2018.
Hillman was identified with the help of DNA in October, a Navy spokesman said Wednesday.
His remains will be reburied at 11 a.m., Jan. 27, in St. Jerome Cemetery, Holyoke, with full military honors.
“Finally coming home,” said Holyoke Mayor Joshua A. Garcia.
Garcia was instrumental in helping Pearl Harbor survivor Harry L. Chandler finally receive his high school diploma. Garcia said he plans to attend the Jan. 27 service and has asked city firefighters and police to be present.
He called it an honor and a privilege.
“It's very important…