Relentless Pursuit: Family Member’s Own Research Identifies USS Oklahoma Sailor
KENT, August 8, 2023 — Radioman 3rd class Frank Samuel Hoag Jr., a hero aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma during the tragic attack on Pearl Harbor, finally received his long-awaited final resting place on August 8, 2023. He was laid to rest with full military honors at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent.
The path to this discovery was marked by the dedication and perseverance of Hoag’s cousin, Nancy Melary. Her remarkable journey highlights the strength of family bonds and the lengths some are willing to go to honor their loved ones.
In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, the U.S.S. Oklahoma sank, entombing most of its sailors. In the subsequent years, unidentified remains from this ship, as well as others like the U.S.S. Arizona, were interred at the National Cemetery of the Pacific (Punch Bowl) in Hawaii.
In 2015, a ray of hope emerged when the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) disinterred Hoag’s remains alongside others, aiming to finally bring an end to decades of anguish and uncertainty for the families. However, their efforts hit a roadblock as 33 members of the Oklahoma Project still had remained unidentified.
Defying the odds, and driven by her spirit to do what’s right and finish the job the DPAA had started, Melary embarked on an exhaustive genealogical journey after the Navy and DPAA failed to secure a viable family DNA reference sample. Determinedly, Melary traced her family lineage back over nine generations and then followed the line forward seven more. Her relentless search led her to a distant living male relative in Ontario, Canada. A DNA sample provided by this newfound relative in November 2021 confirmed a match, finally identifying Hoag.
Nancy Melary, whose mother was Hoag’s first cousin, passionately spoke at his memorial service, emphasizing the importance of tenacity in the search for answers. “It’s been a long journey and a long search. Even though somebody’s been gone a long time, they still matter to other people. I’d say don’t give up to those who are trying to find their unknowns. Just don’t give up. Pursue any avenue you can find on your own because sometimes there just aren’t enough resources through the Navy or other military that they can do that.”
The story was further amplified by Teri Mann Whyatt, a family member of “Operation 85”. Attending on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona families, Teri paid her respects to RM3c Hoag Jr. and acknowledged the unwavering spirit of families like Melary’s who refuse to let their heroes be forgotten. Thank you to Teri for representing “Operation 85” and taking the time to meet and make new friends with Nancy Melary. “Operation 85” is inspired by Nancy’s passion and persistence, and we are certainly taking her advise to never give up on our family as well!