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It took nearly 80 years, but brothers Harold and William Trapp, killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, were finally given a formal burial last week at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.
“The ceremony was more than I could have expected,” said retired Albuquerque teacher Carol Sowar, who along with her husband, Jack, and 10 members of their family were in Honolulu for the ceremony honoring Sowar’s uncles, who died long before she was born.
“It was very touching, from the bagpipe players to the 21-gun salute to the headstones, which were absolutely beautiful,” she said. “Everything was done exquisitely. It was meaningful and done with a great deal of respect.”
Harold Frank Trapp, 24, and brother William Herman Trapp, 23, were both assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma when Japanese bombers darted through the sky, dropping torpedoes.
The mangled and burning Oklahoma, with 1,398 officers and crew, capsized; 429 sailors and Marines aboard the ship were killed. Most were never identified and their remains were joined with others and buried at the cemetery. The Trapp brothers were among them.
They remained unidentified until late last year, when the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, after exhuming remains from common graves, notified Sowar that her uncles had been identified using DNA from Sowar and other family members for genetic comparison.
Last Tuesday’s formal burial, with full military honors, not only brings closure to Sowar and her family, she said, but it also brings peace to the spirit of Sowar’s late mother, Irene Louise Trapp Welch, the dead sailors’ younger sister, who grieved for her brothers until her own death in 2007.