Editor’s note: About two weeks ago, The Register Citizen was notified by a local funeral home that the recently identified remains of a WWII sailor, lost in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, had arrived in Connecticut for burial. Not long after, a representative from POW/MIA CT Forget-Me-Nots, Inc. contacted us on behalf of Ensign Joseph P. Hittorff Jr.’s family asking that we not seek an interview. The family, however, provided a great deal of information about Hittorff’s life and service. Hittorff served on the USS Oklahoma and his long-overdue funeral will take place in Kent on June 18. Hittorff’s cousin, Dianne Lang, wrote the following piece about her relative and how his remains came home.
As a baby boomer who missed World War II by a few years, I never thought much about how the war had impacted the older generation who lived through it. We certainly studied it in school, but it somehow seemed remote to me. I do remember the infrequent occasions when my uncle, Robert Keene, would reluctantly talk about the time he spent in an army tank. I just knew it had been an awful experience for him. I also remember my father, Philip Camp, talking about the rough treatment farmers were given during the last call for recruits before the war ended. He was the sole support for a multi-generational family unit, and a food producer, so had been deferred up until that point. Farmers were almost considered anti-American by some in the military as they had not been expected to serve. No one spoke much about those times, and I felt disconnected from that period in history.
Then everything changed. My mother, Marie Camp, was contacted by Robert Valley, Volunteer Coordinator of the USS Oklahoma families. Information had been uncovered by a researcher that led him to believe that the remains of my mother’s first cousin, Ens. Joseph Parker Hittorff, Jr. could now be identified.