On July 24, 1944, off the coast of Tinian and Saipan Islands in the South Pacific, a hellish scene unfolded on board the USS Colorado. Pulling along the island of Tinian, the ship received 22 hits from a hidden shore battery, resulting in over 240 casualties.
One of those mortally wounded was Seaman Second Class, Ira Novis Slaton. He died approximately three hours later. For approximately 64 years, his family believed he was buried at sea and would never return home.
In December 2008, while doing some family research on the internet, a family member stumbled across information that perhaps Buck (as he was known by family and friends) wasn’t buried at sea after all. A relatively new division of the US Military, whose sole purpose is to identify POW and MIA’s from all wars, claims to have Buck’s remains and is looking for relatives to provide DNA for positive identification.
After Buck’s death, he and the others killed in action that day were interred in graves on Saipan Island. There they remained until four years later (1948), when the US Military returned, exhumed the remains and reburied them in the Philippines. Before re-interring the remains, a complete inventory was taken of each set of remains, including dental analysis so that hopefully all could be identified. Until such time, Buck and several others were reburied in a graves marked “unknown.”
Skeptical at first, my grandmother, Buck’s younger sister, was fearful of providing the information needed for a positive identification. She and her siblings remembered their father lamenting that he would be willing to do whatever was necessary to bring Buck home, if he could prove that the remains received were, in fact, Buck. They had heard of scams where family members paid for loved ones to be returned, to only receive one finger bone in a box with concrete blocks. Fortunately, a little internet research and a phone call with the Navy MIA office in Tennessee, provided the comfort level needed for her to proceed.
Currently she and my Dad are working on collecting the needed DNA and mailing it to the Naval Hospital in Rockville, Maryland. Once there, each set of DNA will be compared to the remains believed to be Buck’s. Keep your fingers crossed….and I’ll keep you posted…