Years after His Death in Pearl Harbor, Sailor Honored

The USS Oklahoma was sunk by several bombs and torpedoes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (National Archives photo)
The USS Oklahoma was sunk by several bombs and torpedoes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (National Archives photo)

CARLISLE, Ind. — Paul Andrews Nash is finally coming home, nearly 75 years after paying the ultimate sacrifice at Pearl Harbor.

The sailor from Sullivan County is receiving an official burial Saturday with full military honors in Carlisle. A ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. at the Odd Fellows Cemetery on Indiana 58.

Nash was aboard the USS Oklahoma when it was sunk by Japanese torpedoes on Dec. 7, 1941. The 26-year-old was among 429 crew killed.

Part of his remains were positively identified in February as the military continues to match names with unknown crew members that were buried in Honolulu.

The family had the option of postponing the ceremony in the chance a full set of remains are identified.

"But no," said Lisa Ridge, Nash's granddaughter. "We've waited long enough."

There were about 1,300 crew aboard the Oklahoma when it was sunk. A civilian helped rescue 32 wounded sailors.

In the years following the attack, 35 fallen seamen were positively identified and buried, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. The ship was righted in 1943.

All unidentified remains were removed and interred in two Hawaii cemeteries.

They were exhumed in 1947 in an effort to identify them. Dental records helped preliminarily name 27 crew, but all proposed identifications were denied by the government, according to the defense department.

The unidentified remains were later buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

In 2003, Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory offered historical evidence helping identify five additional service members. One was Alfred Livingston of Worthington.

Livingston's remains were sent home for a proper burial at Worthington Cemetery in 2007, a ceremony Ridge attended.

But her family was still waiting.

In spring 2015, the Pentagon announced the remains of up to 388 unaccounted-for men would be exhumed in another attempt to identify them.

The remains were sent to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency laboratory in Hawaii, where scientists employed DNA testing and other current forensic tools and techniques to determine the identities.

Nash's family began discussing plans for his homecoming while realizing it could be at least five years before a ceremony could be held.

After the Pentagon's announcement, Ridge stayed tuned to an online network of Pearl Harbor families. Emory would check in at the lab once or twice a week, and Bob Valley, another survivor, sent email alerts as remains were identified.

On Feb. 5 — the anniversary of the death of Ridge's mother, Carol Ann — the family received the call. Nash's remains were confirmed through dental records and through mitochondrial DNA matched to a niece.

The military paid a visit to Ridge's home in April. She and her husband, Danny, her father and brothers, Jeff and Greg Tislow, watched eagerly as the personnel pulled in.

"We kind of had this feeling like ... this would be what you would dread as a parent of a young man or a young lady fighting right now," said Ridge, sitting in her Merom home earlier this week. "When they pulled up, we were, like, smiling.

"We were like, 'Oh, my gosh, it's really happening, it's finally happening,'" she continued. "And we talked about how the emotions are different when it's been 75 years."

The personnel reviewed Nash's report with them and laid out the options. Nash's remains could be reburied in the Punchbowl, at Arlington National Cemetery or closer to home.

The family decided it was more convenient for the final resting place to be in Sullivan County. Saturday's ceremony was timed close to Nash's widow, Kathryn's, birthday.

On Friday, a plane carrying the remains will touch down in Indianapolis with full military honors. The Indiana Patriot Guard, a small contingent of sailors, family members and a PBS crew producing a documentary on the Oklahoma plans to meet the casket.

A hearse will carry the remains to Holmes Memorial Chapel in Sullivan, where they will be held until the ceremony.

Nash will be buried in the plot next to the grave site of his parents, Earl and Faye. His name was included on their tombstone.

Nash was born in 1915 in Coles County, Illinois, but grew up in Carlisle in a farming family. He was a 1933 graduate of Carlisle High School.

In 1932, Nash secretly wed Kathryn Wilson in Paris, Ill. The two couldn't afford to be a married couple so they continued living with their families. Kathryn hid her wedding ring in a dresser drawer and only wore it while she slept.

The marriage was finally revealed in 1934, but the family doesn't know how. It was never a topic of conversation, likely because Kathryn later remarried and didn't discuss it out of respect for her second husband — a World War I veteran.

"I'd love to know," Ridge said. "I'd love to be a fly on the wall."

Ridge plans to take the ring — with its "very simple little band" — to the burial ceremony.

Nash enlisted in the Navy in April 1933. After basic training in Chicago, he was assigned to the Oklahoma and served his entire career on the ship. The couple's only child, Carol Ann, was born in 1935.

Nash achieved rank of Fire Controlman First Class in 1937 and was placed in charge of aiming the ship's 14-inch guns. He re-enlisted twice when he couldn't find employment, signing up for an additional four years in 1937 and three more in 1941.

Not until Dec. 20, 1941 — Carol Ann's birthday — did the telegram arrive reporting Nash was missing. A second notice came in February stating he was presumed dead.

It would have been big news in the close-knit community.

"Everybody was very supportive, I just know how private the family was," Ridge said.

Her grandmother and mother rarely spoke about Nash. She knows he was a quiet man with distinguished skills to have been in charge of the Oklahoma's largest guns.

Carol Ann died in 2001 and Kathryn in 2006. Mother and daughter are buried in a separate section of the Odd Fellows Cemetery, close to what will be Nash's final resting place.

One of Ridge's brothers, Jeff Tislow, and his wife, Ann, pulled up to the cemetery on a recent muggy afternoon, greeting visitors at Nash's parents' grave site.

Ann stooped down to scrub away new-mown grass stuck between the letters on the tomb. Nash's headstone had arrived at the funeral home but was not yet in place.

That's one of the many details they discussed with Ridge, who arrived a few minutes later.

Nash's three grandchildren and most great-grandchildren plan to attend Saturday's ceremony. A niece and at least one nephew also are expected to be there.

A contingent of Navy seamen will serve as pallbearers. The Indiana Patriot Guard and several local veterans have also said they are coming. The PBS crew is bringing its cameras.

After a brief visit, Ridge returned home to continue preparing. She slipped her grandfather's uniform on a mannequin and showed off the posters of family photographs to be displayed at the cemetery.

Photographs of Ridge and her son, Justin, at the Pearl Harbor memorial in Hawaii are displayed in the kitchen. Posters from the former Pearl Harbor visitor center hang in the home office.

She also has a large print of the Oklahoma that was autographed by several survivors, who drew arrows pointing to their location on the ship when the attack occurred.

Planning the ceremony has been a first-time experience for those involved, she said.

"I have a list every day of questions," Ridge said, "and everybody's been really tolerant because everybody's learning from this."

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