Remains of WWII veteran killed at Pearl Harbor return to St. Louis

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JEFFERSON BARRACKS NATIONAL CEMETERY, Mo. – A St. Louis man was finally laid to rest in his native soil decades after he died at Pearl Harbor.

Natale Torti was a young man when he was assigned to the USS Oklahoma during World War II. He never got to see his home again. But thanks to modern technology and the US Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, his family has found closure.

In December 1941, Torti was a Seaman First Class onboard the USS Oklahoma. The vessel was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He was one of 429 sailors killed that day when torpedoes capsized the Oklahoma during Japan’s surprise attack on the naval installation.

For decades, Torti’s remains were at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (known as “The Punchbowl”) in Honolulu.

“The Navy did such a fantastic job on identifying the remains and we are able to bring the families together for this purpose,” said Richard Slawson, Torti’s nephew. “I’m sure Natale is happy that we’re all together as well.”

In 2015, The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense partnered to begin identifying servicemen missing since World War II.

“Two years ago, we did swabs for the DNA testing, my brother and I, Jim and Joe,” Slawson said. “So it was both the paternal and maternal side of the family that they took samples from.”

On Friday afternoon, family members gathered at Jefferson Barracks to say goodbye and give thanks to DNA testing that is bringing this chapter to a close for the Torti family.

“Great young man,” Slawson said. “Was in the Navy for about a year when this happened. Just over a year when he was killed on the bombing of the Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor. So other than that, it’s been stories we read on old newspapers or materials the Navy supplied. So we’ve gotten to know him a lot better than we did when this all started.”

In Fiscal Year 2018, the Department of Defense has accounted for 203 missing personnel. Among them: 10 had fought in the Vietnam War, 37 from the Korean War and 156 from World War II, such as Natale Torti.

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