Lubbock sailor who died at Pearl Harbor returns home

A U.S. sailor who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor is returning home over 80 years after the battle.
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 2:15 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2023 at 10:49 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A U.S. sailor who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor has returned home to his family more than 80 years after the battle. EM1c Harvey Christopher Herber’s remains arrived in Lubbock Wednesday afternoon after a nephew’s promise was realized after more than 60 years.

Herber entered the Navy from Washington and served aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma in 1941. When the Japanese navy attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, torpedo bombers sank the Pacific fleet, killing Officer Herber in the process. He was declared missing in action.

Herber’s great-nephew, Jerry Johnson Sr., says the sailor’s brother William was devastated by the loss.

“Well in the little place he lived, there was a picture of Harvey on the wall. And, as I recollect, that was the only thing that was on the wall, was that one picture,” Johnson said.

At just 15 years old, Johnson promised his grandpa William he would help find Herber.

“I just said well, maybe down the road when I get older, you know. I just wanted him to settle down’s the main reason, ‘cause he was upset,” Johnson said.

For decades, the sailor’s remains rested at the National Memorial of the Pacific in Honolulu, also known as the “Punchbowl.” In 2015, new technology allowed the Defense Personnel Accounting Agency to begin identifying those remains.

Johnson, who relocated to Lubbock, sent in his DNA and researchers found a match. Herber was finally given the chance to return to his family, arriving to a water salute, the honor guard, and full military honors at the Lubbock airport.

“But, when the plane came in and taxied up there, it kind of takes your breath away just a little bit. And I made three tours of Vietnam, so when they unloaded the remains with the flag, it takes a little bit. You never get used to it,” Johnson said.

Johnson, a Vietnam veteran, and someone who spent more than 50 years in law enforcement has worked to bring closure to families in similar situations. He volunteered in the reserves, working with DPS and the Texas Rangers to identify two young women who had been murdered.

“Those two families got some closure on that, I shouldn’t say closure. They understood what happened, and they got the person who did it,” Johnson said.

After working with his own family and finding Herber, he wants this same reunion for other families.

“Keep after it. I mean, I never, I’m not good on saying no, so I just go after it and keep going so I can hopefully get something done,” Johnson said.

Officer Herber will lie under the watch of the VFW until Friday when it and other organizations will provide a graveside service with full military honors. That ceremony is set for 2 p.m. at Peaceful Gardens Memorial Park.

“The outpouring has been just unbelievable. You cannot do this by yourself. Everybody’s, the funeral home here, veterans groups, my family, everybody pitched in. And it’s been a blessing,” Johnson said.