CHARLOTTE, Mich. — Charlotte native Francis Charles Flaherty died aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. This week, his body will be returned home to be buried.
Flaherty was a posthumous Medal of Honor recipient. During the attack by Japanese forces, as his ship was capsizing, he stayed in a gun turret and held a flashlight, helping others to escape at the cost of his own life.
Flaherty's nephew John Flaherty was a month old when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, so he never met his uncle. He said the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor, his uncle mailed the family Christmas presents and his gift was three straw and wooden dolls. He still has them.
He's deeply saddened about his uncle's loss but proud of his heroism.
"Out of all the wars that we have been involved in, there have been 4,000 Medal of Honor recipients, and my uncle is one of them. So yeah, I'm proud," John Flaherty said.
Francis Flaherty's awards and decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, American Defense Service Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. The escort ship USS Flaherty was named in his honor.
Flaherty's remains were identified in 2019 using DNA reference samples from family members. According to the Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs Office, scientists at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency work to identify sailors who died in past conflicts.
"What an honor it is to finally be able to relocate his remains through the efforts of the POW/MIA project, which identified his remains and return him home to Charlotte, where he grew up," said John Flaherty.
John Flaherty said it gives him chills knowing his uncle will be back home, and he and several family members will be at the burial on Saturday.
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