Leslie Phillip Delles is a United States Navy sailor who was killed on the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. His remains were identified on February 12, 2021.
Leslie Delles and his twin, Lester, were born on April 11, 1920 in Illinois to Mr. and Mrs. Michal P. Delles. At some point, the brothers enlisted in the United States Navy, from St. Charles, Illinois. Leslie was eventually assigned as an Electrician's Mate, 3rd Class, to the USS Oklahoma.
At about 7:48 AM on December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service conducted a surprise military strike against the United States at the naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The USS Oklahoma was one of the first ships to be attacked. The ship was torpedoed and capsized. Delles was killed during the attack, though his exact circumstances are unknown. His remains were located between 1941 and 1944, but not identified. As a result, he was considered Missing in Action while his remains were buried in the Punchbowl at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Overall, 2,335 Americans were killed in the attack, 429, including Delles, were on the USS Oklahoma. The surprise attack led to US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to declare December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy". The following day, the US Congress declared war on Japan which led to the United States' formal entry into World War II.
On December 22, 1941, Delles parents received air mail from Lester stating he was on the high seas being transferred to the naval base in San Diego, California when Pearl Harbor was attacked, thereby confirming his survival. However, Leslie was eventually declared killed in the attack, but his remains were not located. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. His name is featured at the USS Oklahoma Memorial and the Courts of the Missing of the Honolulu Memorial in Honolulu.
In September 1947, the American Graves Registration Service was tasked to identify unknown soldier's remains from the Pacific Theatre. However, they were only able to identify thirty-five of the crewmen from the USS Oklahoma. In October 1949, the American Graves Registration Service ruled Delles, along with many soldiers whose remains were not identified, as unrecoverable.
In 2015, the Department of Defense and the Defense POW/MIA accounting agency initiated a program to exhume the unidentified sailors of the USS Oklahoma to try and match their DNA against the DNA of family members whose loved ones were never identified. Scientists at the DPAA used anthropological analysis and scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis to identify the servicemen.
Through these methods, Leslie Phillip Delles was identified on February 12, 2021. His identification was announced on June 1, 2021. He will be buried in Sutter Creek, California on October 23, 2021.