Remains of Michigan sailor killed in Pearl Harbor attack returning home


CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The remains of a Michigan sailor who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor have returned to his home state.

An undated photo of Navy Ensign Francis Charles Flaherty, a Charlotte native. (Courtesy: Navy Personnel Command)

Navy Ensign Francis Charles Flaherty, a Charlotte native, died while aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Dec. 7, 1941 at the age of 22. He stayed aboard in a gun turret holding a flashlight as the ship was capsizing to help others escape.

His remains landed at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport late Thursday afternoon. Family members came to see the casket arrive, which has returned to Charlotte for burial.  

Flaherty, who was buried as unknown, was accounted for on Sept. 30, 2019. He will be coming home to be buried on Saturday, nearly 80 years after his death.

For his heroism, Flaherty was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He received several other awards: Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Bronze Star and World War II Victory Medal.

Escort ship USS Flaherty (DE-135) was named in his honor.

Francis Flaherty’s nephew John Flaherty was at the airport to see the arrival

“Goose bumps and tears. That’s the mix of emotions,” John Flaherty said. “His life was one of a short duration but great, great honor.”

The remains of Navy Ensign Francis Charles Flaherty, who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor, arrive in his home state of Michigan. (Aug. 19, 2021)

The family had planned to bring the remains home last year.

“We started making arrangements for the return of Fran’s remains to his hometown and we were all set for 2020 and then of course, the pandemic broke out and delayed things,” John Flaherty said.

Francis Flaherty will be laid to rest at 11 a.m. at the Maple Hill Cemetery in Charlotte. A procession to the cemetery will begin at 10:30 a.m. 

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