Twin veterans return to Lincoln after 78 years

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN)- Rudolph and Leo Blitz were only 17 when they enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

They were just 20 when they died in 1941. The twins enlisted together, and now years after their death, they return together, to Lincoln Memorial cemetery.

"I never thought they were coming home, in the last 2 months I realized they were coming home," said Sandra Cox, a niece.

Cox said the family got the news that the boys were M.I.A as they were headed to church.

"They got the wire that they were missing in action about 6:30 on Christmas Eve, 1941," said Cox.

It's been 78 years of not knowing since then. Everyone that knew the twins slowly passed away with time.

"It's been a chapter that didn't have an end, and now it does," said Cox.

Rudolph and Leo were aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma. One was a fireman the other was a machinist. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the family got a letter from a shipmate that knew the Blitz Boys.

"It said, 'I was with him and then he was gone. When they told us to evacuate, he said 'I'm not leaving without my brother,'" Cox said.

The two were buried in Hawaii until Project Oklahoma started. Once they were identified, the lead of the project knew it was a unique story.

"It was really exciting to be able to identify both of them," said Carrie LeGarde, a Forensic Anthropologist of the USS Oklahoma Project.

While many family members are mourning, having never have met Rudolph and Leo, they say they are overjoyed to know their family is home.

"They were brothers to the end," Cox said.

The only remaining family member at today's funeral that remembers the brothers was their younger sister,Betty. Cox says that it was Betty who would translate and write letters to the boys for her parents. Betty is 93 years old.