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'We're very grateful to the Navy'

78 years after Pearl Harbor attack, remains returning for burial in Illinois

Seventy-eight years after Adolph Loebach was killed at Pearl Harbor, the Loebach family finally will get some closure.
After the attack, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Peru did hold a sort of memorial Mass, but the family never was able to go to a local graveside to pay respects to their loved one.
Jim Loebach, retired teacher and Oglesby resident, said he was only 3 when his brother died, so he doesn’t have memories of his second-oldest brother other than family stories and photos.
But thanks to the work of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Loebach is relieved that his family finally will be able to put up a grave marker in St. Vincent’s Cemetery — provided by the U.S. Navy — and have what he hopes is a relatively quiet funeral service. He said the family could have chosen to have a burial ceremony and marker in Hawaii or Arlington National Cemetery, but they would rather the final resting place be near the graves of parents Henry and Veronica Loebach.
“This agency was established to return remains to the families and we want to be able to have him buried next to his parents,” Jim said. “We’re very grateful to the Navy for bringing the body back so he can be buried next to my parents. I am getting some closure and my nephews and nieces too, and I assume the rest of the family.”
New DNA techniques have helped the DPAA better carry out its mission to identify fallen soldiers, and Loebach said the agency takes that mission seriously. He said he was surprised in 2012 to receive a call from the agency and again in 2015, that advancements could make the identification possible.
Jim, 83 now, received the calls, as his two sisters and all five brothers have passed away.
Loebach said Barto Funeral Home will complete an obituary for Adolph, and there will be a visitation and Mass the morning of Dec. 19 in St Anthony’s Church in Spring Valley.
This is the Department of Defense’s account:
“The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced last week that Navy Fire Controlman 3rd Class Adolph J. Loebach, 22, of Peru, killed during World War II, was accounted for on July 2, 2019.
“On Dec. 7, 1941, Loebach was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Adolph Loebach.”
From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased USS Oklahoma crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen. Remains that were recovered went into, basically, a mass grave, and only in the past few years has there been hope of identifying those remains.
“In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.
“In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Loebach.
“Between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis.
“To identify Loebach’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis.
“DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of the Navy for their partnership in this mission.
“Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,635 still unaccounted for from World War II with approximately 30,000 assessed as possibly recoverable. Loebach’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.”
The Department of Defense and Elton Murphy of La Salle, District 9 VFW commander, contributed to this report.
Craig Sterrett can be reached at (815) 220-6935 or Follow him on Twitter @NT_NewsEditor.

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