Mo. sailor killed at Pearl Harbor buried on attack anniversary

Monday, December 8, 2003

BRAYMER, Mo. (AP) -- Sixty-two years to the day after he and more than 2,200 Americans died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the remains of a sailor from Missouri were laid to rest in his hometown on Sunday.

Payton L. Vanderpool Jr. was 22 and serving aboard the U.S.S. Pennsylvania when he died. Because of confusion following the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that brought the United States into World War II, Vanderpool's identity was lost, and the location of his remains was unknown for decades.

In recent years one of his sisters, Thelma Blanton of Kansas City, Kan., began writing letters urging the government to speed up efforts to find and identify her brother's remains.

In September, recently disinterred remains were positively identified as Vanderpool's by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. It was only the second time that an unknown Pearl Harbor victim was found and identified.

At Sunday's service in the Pitts Funeral home in Braymer, Vanderpool's casket was flanked by his Navy whites, hanging on a wall, and a small table of portraits and memorabilia. The items included a tin toy, a jar or marbles and a letter Vanderpool wrote to his parents three months before his death.

"You must be getting plenty of rain now, and I hope you have a good crop," he wrote. "80 cents a bushel is pretty high for corn, isn't it?"

Blanton was joined at the service by two of Vanderpool's other sisters, Flora Mae Young, also of Kansas City, Kan., and Vera Denny of St. Joseph. A fourth sister, Madolene Stanley of Braymer, was unable to attend.

"He is no longer in a grave unknown," Blanton told the about 170 people who attended the service. "He has come home."

Among those at the rites was Urban Neff, 86, of Marceline, who also served on the Pennsylvania.

Although he didn't know Vanderpool, Neff said, "I just sort of felt that I should be here."

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