Atkinson — Louis James Tushla, 25, of Atkinson Died Dec. 7, 1941 in the initial attack at Pearl Harbor.

A memorial visitation will be held from 1-5 p.m. on Friday, July 16, 2021 at Seger Funeral Home in Atkinson with a 5 p.m. wake prayer service and a 7 p.m. Knights of Columbus rosary.

Memorial funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 17, 2021 at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Atkinson.

Burial will be in the St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery in Atkinson.

Memorials may be made to the Farley/Tushla American Legion Post No. 86 in Atkinson.

Louis, the fourth child of Peter and Susanna Tushla, was born on the family farm northeast of Atkinson on Feb. 13, 1916. He spent his early years working the fields and helping to tend the big gardens that made the Tushla name legendary in the Atkinson community. He graduated from Atkinson High School in 1934.  

After graduation, he lived and worked in his hometown area and was employed at the Dvorak brothers farm southwest of Atkinson right before he joined the Navy.  

On Nov. 2, 1939, Louis applied for enlistment in the U.S. Navy, but was rejected because of “infected tonsils.” He proceeded to have his tonsils removed and made a second application as an apprentice seaman in Los Angeles, CA, on Jan. 11, 1940. The application describes him as being five feet, nine inches tall, weighing 156 pounds, having blue eyes, medium brown hair and a ruddy complexion. This time he was accepted and by October of that year was serving abroad the USS Oklahoma in Hawaiian waters. His station of duty was in the main engine room of the Battleship. He made rapid advancement in his rate and was a Fireman First Class by December of 1941.  

Because of some kind of a collision at sea, the USS Oklahoma was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when Japanese forces waged a surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941. The Oklahoma suffered multiple torpedo hits, causing it to capsize. Four hundred and twenty-nine sailors and Marines were lost, including Fireman First Class Louis James Tushla, 3821617, U.S. Navy. 

On Dec. 20, 1941, his parents received a telegram from the U.S. Navy officially informing them that Louis was missing in action. They waited in fear and anxiety for further word, sending a letter to the U.S. Navy on Jan. 20, 1942, stating, “We are terribly worried and would appreciate it very much if you could aid us in anyway. Could you tell us if the ship Oklahoma has been raised as yet, as we thought all along that perhaps he went down with the ship.” His sister Kathleen Tushla Deermer also sent a letter to the U.S. Navy on Feb. 12, 1942, stating, “We haven’t heard anymore concerning him since then. Would you be able to give me any more information?” On Thursday, Feb. 19, 1942, Peter and Susanna Tushla received the following message from Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs, chief of Navy Bureau, Washington, D.C.: “After exhaustive search it has been found impossible to locate your son, Louis James Tushla, fireman first class U.S. Navy, and he has therefore been officially declared to have lost his life in the service of this country as of Dec. 7, 1941. The department expresses to you its sincere sympathy.” 

A Requiem high Mass was celebrated for him at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Atkinson on March 12, 1942.

In the days, months and years following the attack, remains of 35 men lost abroad the Oklahoma were recovered. Louis was not one of them. The unidentified remains of the other seamen were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP) or “Punchbowl” as “Unknowns.”

Permission to exhume the graves of the USS Oklahoma “Unknowns” at the NMCP was given on April 14, 2015, in a memorandum from Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work, because of recent advances in forensic techniques. From June through November 2015, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) personnel, in cooperation with cemetery officials, exhumed all remaining caskets associated with the USS Oklahoma at the NMCP and transferred the remains to the DPAA laboratories located at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii and Offutt Air Force Base.

In the forensics laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Y-chromosomal STR testing performed on some remains were found to be consistent with the Y-STR profile of Dennis Tushla, a nephew of Louis. The laboratory analysis of these remains and the totality of the circumstantial evidence available established the evidence that the remains were those of Fireman First Class Louis James Tushla, 3821617, U.S. Navy. The official confirmation of the identification of the remains was made by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Washington, D.C., on March 27, 2020. 

The U.S. Navy informed Carol Tushla Samson, a niece of Louis Tushla, that the remains had been identified shortly after the official confirmation. In consultation with other family members, it was decided that the remains would be released from Offutt Air Force Base on July 15, 2021, to the Seger Funeral Home in Atkinson. The remains would be escorted by the Legion Riders and family members from Omaha to Atkinson for visitation and a vigil service on Friday, July 16, 2021, and a 10 a.m. funeral mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Saturday, July 17, 2021. Burial of the remains of Louis James Tushla would be in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Atkinson, next to his parents Peter and Susanna.   

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