Glenn Cyriack, of Lake Benton, was among the thousands killed on Dec. 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. He was about 20 years old at the time and serving on the USS Oklahoma, according to military records from navy.togetherweserved.com.
Like many who lost their lives in the attack, Cyriack’s remains were not immediately identified and he was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), hundreds of remains could not be identified with scientific methods available at the time and were buried at the cemetery. In 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed graves at the cemetery and used modern forensic technology to identify the remains.
That’s where David Smith, of Jasper comes in. Cyriack was Smith’s uncle and the brother of Smith’s mom, Fern. Smith said a genealogist working as a contractor for the Department of Defense contacted him about six or seven years ago and told him that the Navy was in the process of exhuming bodies from mass graves in Hawaii and identifying the remains. She asked if Smith would provide a DNA sample to help identify Cyriack’s remains. He agreed, as did his cousin, Steve Krause, of Lake Benton.
“We didn’t hear anything for about another six plus years — hadn’t heard a word,” Smith said. “Then I was wondering a few times what was going on, why we hadn’t heard. Maybe they hadn’t found his remains.”
Then, the week of Dec. 7, Smith’s cousin called and said her mom, Cyriack’s sister June, had received a call from the Navy telling her that Cyriack’s remains had been identified. Smith said the news caused a variety of emotions.
“You’re surprised, you’re happy, you’re sad, all that kind of stuff,” he said.
Smith said he and Krause are meeting with a Navy representative at Krause’s home on March 8 to make arrangements for the burial of Cyriack’s remains. After consulting with family, he said, they decided to have the remains buried at a cemetery near Verdi where Cyriack’s sister, Cora, and his fiancée at the time of his death, Ines, are buried. Smith said Cyriack’s remains are expected to be returned no sooner than 45 days after they meet with the Navy representative.
“It sounds like they would fly the body into Sioux Falls airport and then have arrangements for transportation,” Smith said. “I believe it comes with a full military escort, so there would be like six Navy sailors who would escort the body through the whole process.”
Smith said he expects that family members will gather to pay their respects when Cyriack’s remains are returned. He’s not sure if Cyriack’s two remaining siblings, June, who lives in Kentucky, and Clifford, who lives in Ely, will be able to come due to their age.
Smith, who served 26 years in the Army National Guard from 1972 to 1998, said he thought it was remarkable what can be done with DNA and that efforts to identify the sailors continued 80 years after they died.
“It does bring some closure,” Smith said.