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NEWS | July 12, 2021

Minnesota Sailors Honor One of Their Own During Somber, Historic Weekend

Navy Fireman 1st Class Neal Todd, was among 429 Sailors killed aboard USS Oklahoma (BB-37) while the ship was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941.
On Thursday, July 8, and Saturday, July 10, 2021, Sailors from Navy Operational Support Center Minneapolis participated in rendering full military honors to Todd, helping complete his nearly 80-year journey home to Minnesota and his final resting place among family members at Aekely Cemetery.
Neal Todd was born on Nov. 5, 1919. He came from a large family of 12 children, including two half-siblings and an adopted sibling. He graduated high school in 1938, and enlisted in the Navy in October 1940, serving alongside his older brother, Wesley, at Pearl Harbor.
Both brothers were present during the 1941 attack that began America’s involvement in World War II. Wesley survived, telling family members in later years how his shipmates used engine grease on his body to push him through a porthole when there was no other means of escape from the ship on which he was serving during the attack.
Wesley heard stories that Neal had also survived and was seen aboard other ships. Wesley wrote home asking if Neal had also written. Unfortunately, in February 1942 the Navy told Todd’s family, including his nine-year-old half-brother Orville Staffenhagen, that Todd was aboard the Oklahoma during the attack — he was officially declared missing on March 7, 1942.
“It was a pretty trying time for my mother,” Orville said.
In fact, Todd’s remains had been buried after the war in a plot at “The Punchbowl” — the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu — and had gone unidentified for almost 80 years. After the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a policy memorandum in 2015 directing the disinterment of unknown remains associated with the USS Oklahoma to identify Sailors killed during the attack, several women from Todd’s family provided DNA samples to the defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), hoping for a match that would bring closure to the family — especially to Neal’s only surviving sibling, Orville.
Eventually, DPAA asked for additional DNA samples from male family members, and on March 29, 2021, Orville Staffenhagen was notified that his half-brother had finally been identified.
A full range of casualty assistance support for the Staffenhagen/Todd family was provided by Reserve and full-time support Sailors from NOSC Minneapolis. They conducted the dignified transfer of remains for Todd’s casket at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and provided pallbearers, military chaplain services, and a live military bugler during the rendering of full honors at Todd’s burial in Aekely.
“We’re sure proud to have him home,” Staffenhagen told assembled media shortly before the dignified transfer of Todd’s remains.
“This is a tremendous honor for us,” NOSC Minneapolis Commanding Officer, Cmdr. John M. Stump, III said. “Being able to honor fallen shipmates and bring closure to Sailors’ families is a big part of what we do here. Being able to provide services for a Sailor who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Pearl Harbor attack just adds to that honor.”
Reserve and full-time support Sailors assigned to NOSC Minneapolis provide funeral honors for approximately 700 veteran and active-duty funerals each year — covering the entire state of Minnesota, portions of western Wisconsin and northern Iowa. The NOSC Minneapolis Funeral Honors Program is administered under the leadership of Navy Region Northwest Reserve Component Command, headquartered in Everett, Washington.