Before he died at Pearl Harbor, less than a month after turning 18, Gerald Lehman sent home to Michigan letters that his mother came to treasure.
In them, the teen talked about going through Navy training in Great Lakes, Ill. — falling out of his sleeping hammock once — and how much he liked his new woolen uniform.
In graceful penmanship, he asked about the family dog, Duke; wrote about waiting to ship out from California on the battleship USS Oklahoma; and seeing the mountains and rainbows of O’ahu from the doomed ship.
Unknowingly, Lehman sent home to those who loved him something else, something that wouldn’t be useful until decades later: his own DNA.
Sixty-eight years after he was killed on Dec. 7, 1941, DNA lifted from the envelopes Lehman had licked helped the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command positively identify the young sailor’s remains.
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