Ocean County Press Release

TOMS RIVER – The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders will hold a moment of silence at its next public meeting in honor of Machinist's Mate 1st Class Earl R. Melton of Lakewood, who was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor 76 years ago.

Melton's remains were finally identified through DNA testing and he will be accorded a burial will full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on June 28.

The remains were identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, a federal agency charged with identifying killed and missing American servicemen and servicewomen from all wars.

"Thanks to their hard work the family of this brave sailor finally has closure," said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. "After all of these years a hero has finally come home."

Melton served aboard the USS Oklahoma, one of eight battleships moored in the harbor on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941.

Hit by numerous torpedoes, the Oklahoma capsized, trapping much of her crew underwater.

The Oklahoma listed 429 men killed, second only to the USS Arizona, which claimed the lives of 1,177 sailors and officers.

For days after the attack, rescue workers could hear men banging frantically inside the upside-down hull. Because of the difficulty of the salvage effort, the ship was not removed from the muck and righted until 1943.

Vicari said the Freeholders will honor Melton with a moment of silence at their July 5 meeting.

"Ocean County never forgets its veterans," Vicari said.

The county is home to more veterans than any other county in the state. More than 68,000 veterans live in the county's 33 towns.

Local cemeteries also hold the remains of soldiers who fought as far back as the Revolutionary War.

"Machinist's Mate Melton is another example of the brave men and women of Ocean County who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom," said Deputy Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little, who is also liaison to the Ocean County Veteran's Service Bureau.

Melton's remains were originally interred at a cemetery in Hawaii, according to a press release issued by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

In 2015 the Department of Defense ordered the disinterment of unknown sailors from the USS Oklahoma in an effort to identify their remains.

DNA analysis matched Melton with samples given by a niece and four nephews. Dental records and circumstantial evidence helped confirm the findings.

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