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A proper goodbye for a Ross County WWII sailor whose remains will be buried in a family plot

Joseph-Hoffman in uniform holding a pineapple
Ross County Veterans Commission
Joseph Hoffman of Chillicothe served on the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

The remains of a World War II sailor who died while serving on the USS Oklahoma on December 7, 1941, will return to Ross County for burial.

Musician 1st Class Joseph Hoffman of Chillicothe had joined the service because it offered a coveted music program that could lead to a professional career.

“They had to be on the deck to play the national anthem,” says retired Lt. Colonel Robert Leach, with the Ross County Veterans Commission. “And as they were getting ready to do that, one of the surviving band members saw strange airplanes headed toward them. I heard explosions, and over the loudspeaker came the call for general quarters of battle stations.”

Leach says that Hoffman was the first missing person from Ross County in World War II.

“This is a true case of the first killed and last home because we honestly don't expect a identification will be made after this point,” says Leach. “And so, we do think that Joseph will be the last one to come home. The community kind of waited for answers on his case for over 80 years.”

Leach says although the remains of Hoffman were pulled from the ship’s wreckage in 1944, it took years before technology developed to identify his remains.

"It wasn't until after 2000 when the defense, the Department of Defense the Defense P.O.W. MIA Accounting Agency, was able to use DNA testing and other forensic devices to be able to make the identification,” says Leach.

After the war, American Legion Post 757 was named in Hoffman’s honor. Leach says he learned the story of the soldier when he was in high school in the late 1970s.

A burial procession will be held on Saturday, August 20 with a hearse followed by the U.S. Navy Honor Guard, five WWII veterans, veterans’ organizations, and residents.

Leach says Hoffman’s immediate family are no longer alive.

“The closest family members that the United States government was able to find is Joseph's first cousin twice removed,” says Leach. “So that means his first cousin’s grandson. And he lives in Texas and will be coming to southern Ohio for this event.”

Hoffman will be buried in his family plot in Greenfield where the U.S. Navy will conduct graveside services.

“I believe the community is very excited, especially the veterans,” says Leach.

Leach says the identification of remains has led to multiple funerals of USS Oklahoma casualties across the country in the last ten years.