ALBEMARLE, N.C. (WGHP) — When Edward E. Talbert is laid to rest with full military honors next March in Albemarle, it won’t be the first time his life is celebrated.
There already is marker in the cemetery at Prospect Baptist Church, where one day in 1942 about 1,000 gathered to celebrate the life of a young man who went off to fight in World War II and never came home.
The body of Edward Talbert, a seaman first class, killed when the USS Oklahoma was sunk while it was docked in Pearl Harbor, wasn’t officially identified until earlier this year. That’s when the Navy informed his family that scientists officially had found Talbert’s remains from among most of the 429 who died in the surprise attack by the Japanese nearly 80 years ago.
Talbert was 19 when his battleship sank quickly from a barrage of torpedoes, and he was the first resident of Stanly County lost in the war. That his family was able to get closure has been a remarkable journey.
“They always are saying ‘leave nobody behind; bring everyone home we can,’” said Michael Crisco of New London, Talbert’s nephew and oldest blood relative. “That’s a good thing.”
Talbert’s death officially was classified by the Navy on Aug. 5, 2021, but Crisco, 71, whose mother, Geraldine, was 9 when her brother died, described a process that took eight years to unfold even after the remains had been buried in a mass grave since Dec. 7, 1941.
The Navy took two years to recover all the remains from the ship and buried them in two cemeteries in Hawaii, a DPMAA release said.
Then, after the war, officials began the process of trying to identify those remains, but they only could link them to 35 men. The rest were reburied in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. In 1949, Talbert and the others were deemed “non-recoverable.”
“This goes all the back to 2013 when I got a call from the Navy,” Crisco said. “I seen it come up on my phone and thought it was a wrong number – I was in the Army – but I answered it.”
He said he was told by those handling the Navy’s POW-MIA work that they were going to disinter the remains and begin trying to identify them through DNA analysis.
“They asked about the names of my grandfather and grandmother and if my mother was named Geraldine,” Crisco said. “I realized what was going on.
“They wanted me to swab my mouth and my sister’s, and they sent us packages. We did that and sent them back. That was in 2013.”
The release about the identification said that scientists exhumed remains between June 2015 and November 2015 and used anthropological analysis involving two types of DNA markers.
“We didn’t hear anything else until 2015,” Crisco said. “They explained how the remains were sent to two different labs and that Edward’s remains had been sent to Nebraska.
“In 2020 a woman named Deborah King called to say they had Edward’s file. She said she hopefully would call in four weeks.”
Then a few weeks ago the family got the news.
“Another gentleman called and said they had ID’d Edward Talbert and want to send him home,” Crisco said. “Everything is going from there. All that DNA stuff.
“Just imagine the government and military tossing it back and forth.”
He said a Commander Lowe from Memphis and Wendall Nelson of the Navy’s office in Charlotte came to visit two weeks ago.
“She [Lowe] brought the whole book about everything military has done – this book of all 429 sailors and Marines on the Oklahoma – and presented it to me and my sister. Then she said it would take 45 days before we can have the body.”
Crisco said that would have put the time for the service close to Christmas, and he didn’t feel like that was a good time.
And then there was an inspiration.
“We looked at March,” he said. “And then March 26 popped.”
March 26, 2022, would have been Edward Talbert’s 100th birthday. The family plans to bury his remains on that day in Albemarle. Family members are working with the Navy to plan formal services in Albermarle, and details will be released when they are completed.