More than 77 years after he died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the funeral for Navy Seaman 1st Class George E. Naegle of La Crosse will be held Saturday with full military honors at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman at 530 Main St.
The public is invited to the event at the church, which begins with visitation from 9 to 10 a.m. and continues with a few speeches before the funeral Mass begins at 10:30 a.m. The Mass will be followed by entombment and military honors at St. Joseph Mausoleum in the Catholic Cemetery along Losey Boulevard.
“I am very happy that this is finally coming to completion,” Naegle’s niece, Mary Ann Lyden of La Crosse, said Tuesday before speaking to local television and radio news reporters at the church. She has been making funeral arrangements with the church and Schumacher-Kish Funeral and Cremation Services.
Lyden said that her late mother, Louise Naegle Weimar, who died in 1979, would have been very happy to know that Weimar’s brother was finally getting a funeral and burial in his hometown.
Weimar was George E. Naegle’s only sibling. Their father, George W. Naegle, died in 1974 at the age of 90, and their mother, Anna, died in 1957 at the age of 73.
Naegle’s parents also are buried in Catholic Cemetery. And his grandparents, Joseph and Ellen Naegle, are buried near the St. Joseph Mausoleum in the cemetery.
Lyden, who was only 5 years old when her uncle died, said she hopes to be at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Friday for the arrival of the casket carrying his remains. A hearse will bring the casket from the airport to La Crosse.
Naegle would have been 100 years old this September if he was still alive, Lyden noted. He was a 1938 graduate of La Crosse Central High School, where he was a star football player. He enlisted in the Navy in 1939.
Monsignor Bernard McGarty of La Crosse, who is 94 years old and will be one of the speakers Saturday, also remembers Naegle playing lots of softball and baseball. McGarty was a few years behind Naegle at St. Mary’s Grade School, but remembers him.
“I’m pleased” that Naegle is finally returning to La Crosse for his funeral and burial, McGarty said. “I was a senior in high school when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and we knew right away that George was on the battleship Oklahoma,” he said.
Naegle’s remains were identified last year through DNA and other methods of analysis, the U.S. Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced last September. Lyden and two of her sons, Randy and Robert, had provided the agency with swabs from the inside of their cheeks, as they were asked to do.
Naegle was assigned to the battleship, which was moored at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, when it and other U.S. ships and aircraft were attacked by Japanese airplanes on Dec. 7, 1941. The battleship was hit by multiple torpedoes, which caused it to quickly capsize.
The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Naegle, who was 22 at the time.
From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew, which were subsequently interred in cemeteries in Hawaii. Unidentified remains eventually were buried in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, in Hawaii.
In 2015, the deputy secretary of defense ordered the disinterment of unknowns associated with the USS Oklahoma, and DPAA personnel began exhuming the remains from the Punchbowl for analysis.
As of March, DPAA has identified 200 sailors and Marines from the USS Oklahoma who were previously unidentified. The identification work has been going on at the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Neb.