WWII sailor finally identified through DNA, returns home to be buried closer to

After almost 80 years, Wallace Gregory Mitchell, a seaman first class in the U.S. Navy, has finally returned home.

Mitchell, 19, serving on the U.S.S. Oklahoma, was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. More than 2,300 Americans died that day, 429 of whom were on the Oklahoma when it capsized after being struck by nine torpedoes.

In the carnage of the battle, many sailors were recovered but could not be immediately identified, several not until more recent advances were made in DNA technology.

Recently, Mitchell was identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and, on Tuesday, his remains were flown to John Wayne Airport so he could be laid to rest this week closer to his family.

“It is amazing after all these years,” Mitchell’s now 95-year-old sister, Marjorie (Mitchell) Snykers, said, speaking on the phone from her home in Rancho Santa Margarita. “I never thought that it would ever come to a conclusion, or sort of a conclusion in my lifetime.”

Snykers was joined at the airport Tuesday with her children, Scott Snykers, 64, of Mission Viejo, and Kristin Etter, 68, of Aliso Viejo, to meet the plane transporting Mitchell from Hawaii. He had been buried with other unidentified sailors from the Oklahoma at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

An honor motorcade accompanied them to a Laguna Hills mortuary, with law enforcement and firefighters on overpasses and along the route saluting Mitchell, who will be buried on Friday at Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

“It’s bitter-sweet,” Scott Snykers said. “We were overjoyed that we were able to identify his remains. My mom is so happy that he is being honored individually in this way.”

Marjorie Snykers has clear memories of her childhood growing up with her big brother in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.

“He was my only sibling, so we were very close,” said Snykers, who is four years younger than her brother.

She recalls taking family vacations in Laguna Beach, where the family rented cabins at Sleepy Hollow Beach.

“He was a good swimmer,” Snykers said.

She also said her brother was a gifted writer and cartoonist and had aspirations of becoming a sportswriter.

In 1940, Mitchell was awarded the Wallace Helms Olympic Athletic Foundation Medal award for best all-city high school sportswriter.

In July 1940, Mitchell enlisted in the Navy.

“He joined the Navy, I think, with the idea that he would be going to different ports and getting different experiences,” Snykers said.

She still remembers vividly the day news broke of the Pearl Harbor attack.

“Oh boy,…

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