A St. Charles sailor who died in the Pearl Harbor attack at last can be laid to rest thanks to DNA testing and the remarkable efforts of a team of investigators from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
The DPAA announced Tuesday (June 1, 2021) that Navy Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Leslie P. Delles, 21, of St. Charles, Illinois, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Feb. 12, 2021.
“It is commendable the lengths that the United States goes, through its Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, to account for those casualties who are unidentified or missing,” Kane County Veterans Assistance Commission Superintendent Jacob Zimmerman said. “Just in the last three years, we’ve had three fallen servicemen from Kane County who fought in wars that took place half a century or more ago identified through this process. It is humbling.”
On Dec. 7, 1941, Delles 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 Delles.
From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries.
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 Delles.
Between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis.
To identify Delles’ remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis.
Delles’ 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.
Delles will be buried on Oct. 23, 2021, in Sutter Creek, CA.
For family and funeral information, contact the Navy Service Casualty office at (800) 443-9298.
DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of the Navy for their partnership in this mission.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil, or find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or https://www.linkedin.com/company/defense-pow-mia-accounting-agency.
Delles’ personnel profile can be viewed at https://dpaa-mil.sites.crmforce.mil/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt0000000XeL1EAK.
Schlueter’s Story Part of Research
An article written by the late Tom Schlueter, a longtime journalist for the Kane County Chronicle and Kane County Health Department public information officer, is one of the pieces of evidence that helped lead investigators to the backstory of Leslie P. Delles.
Schlueter’s 2002 article about the County Board and former Kane County Veterans Assistance Commission director John Carr’s efforts to identify the names of Kane County residents for the veterans memorial on the Kane County Government Center Campus was included in the POW/MIA Accounting Agency news release.
Schlueter’s article mentions Leslie Delles as the identical twin brother of Lester, who also served in the U.S. Navy and was stationed at Pearl Harbor. While Lester survived, Leslie was killed aboard the USS Oklahoma.
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SOURCE: Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency news release and website, Kane County Veterans Assistance Commission