by The Chicago Times Staff
June 4, 2021
PEARL HARBOR — Nearly 80 years after the Imperial Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor a St. Charles sailor’s remains have been identified as Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Leslie P. Delles.
Delles was served abord the USS Oklahoma, which was docked at Ford Island on December 7, 1941, when the battleship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The ship capsized after being hit by multiple torpedoes. Delles, 21, was one among the 429 crewmembers aboard who perished.
From 1941 to June 1944, the crew’s remains were interred in Hawaii’s Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries.
At the end of WWII, the American Graves Registration Service exhumed remains of the fallen US servicemen from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks, where medical examiners attempted to identify the deceased servicemen.
Only 35 personnel from the USS Oklahoma were first identified. The unidentified remains were later interred in 46 sites at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, Hawaii. In October 1949, a military board ruled that individuals who could not be recognized were unrecoverable, including Delles.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency then disinterred the unknown remains of USS Oklahoma servicemen in 2015 for study. Delles was discovered on February 12 through DNA testing and anthropological study.
According to the DPAA, a rosette will be placed next to Delles’ name on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl to indicate he has been found.
According to a 1940 Chicago newspaper article given by the DPAA, Delles enlisted in the Navy at the age of 19 with his twin brother, Lester Delles. The brothers enlisted to acquire a new trade, according to the newspaper at the time; Leslie wanted to be an electrician, while Lester wanted to study aviation mechanics. Lester survived
Leslie Delles will be laid to rest on October 23 in Sutter, California.
The Imperial Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor killed 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178.