Killed in the attacks of Pearl Harbor, a Utah sailor’s remains return home

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The remains of a young sailor from Delta are no longer unknown.

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After decades of being gone, his family said it’s a miracle he’s home.

The attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 killed 2,403 U.S. personnel, according to the US Census. Navy Radioman 3rd Class Theodore Q. Jensen was among those killed that day

Jensen, 22, served aboard the USS Oklahoma and was last seen getting onto the ship shortly before Japanese aircrafts attacked.  

“We were told that he had gone off on leave and when he came back. He said, ‘Oh! I forgot my camera’, and he went back to the ship,” said Sharon Senecal, Jensen’s niece. “From there on, we don’t know what happened to him, but we guess he was on the ship when it capsized.”

“My grandfather never got over it, my mother never got over it, she always wanted to know where he was, and how he was, and how he died,” said Theo Bascher, Jensen’s nephew. “We never knew any of that. It was a couple weeks before we even knew he was dead.”

Jensen’s disappearance led to officials declaring him missing in action, and then a few months later, Senecal said her uncle was declared dead.

“And then back in 1949, they told us there was no option of remains, so there would be nothing,” she said.

Because of limited forensic technology and human remains mixed together, the Times reports it was too difficult to tell people apart.

Only 35 crew members out of the 429 Navy personnel and Marines who died on the Oklahoma were identified then. The other remains, according to the Times, were buried as unknowns in the National Cemetery of the Pacific by 1950.

Now, 80 years later, technology has improved, and experts were able to identify Jensen’s remains with a DNA sample from his family.

“My nephew, Kevin Hayburn, did the DNA and matched the DNA perfectly,” Senecal said. “So, when they ship him home, I know I’m not just getting bones from somebody, I’m getting bones from my uncle.”

“It’s a sense of finality. I can imagine grandpa being here and all of them and how ecstatic they would be,” Bascher said.

Senecal and Bascher said Jensen’s mother died when he was six years old.

As Senecal grew up, she remembers Jensen spending a lot of time with her family.

“He was a very talented man,” she said. “And he was a radio man, which meant he was on the edge of technology.”

Born after Jensen’s name, Bascher said he never knew him, but heard stories.

“I knew he liked to sing a lot, he was very jovial,” he said.

At the time Jensen answered the call to serve, Senecal said she was about four or five years old.

“It was October 1940, and at that time, we were all at the Delta train station and it was so funny because he lifted me up and put me on this wagon train that you put the suitcases on and said, ‘OK, girl, anchor away.’”

Brought back by plane Tuesday, Jensen’s family are grateful to have him home.

“It’s part of our family that’s going to be rejoined, so that we can be complete again,” Bascher said.

Jensen’s family and community will honor his memory in Delta Wednesday afternoon.

He will be buried at his grave marker in Delta.

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