While Jackson Charles Pharris was awarded the medal for his extraordinary bravery during the 1941 attack, it wasn't until this week that his surviving family members were able to reclaim the military honor and Pharris' Navy Cross, the Los Angeles Time said Wednesday.
State Controller John Chiang, who helped facilitate Tuesday's military reunion, said the two medals were the rightful property of Pharris' family.
"These tokens of a nation's gratitude are not the state's property. They are part of the Pharris family's heritage -- and to that family they belong," he told the Times.
During the attack, the injured Pharris went through flames below deck to rescue other wounded and bring up ammunition on the battleship California.
He died in Los Angeles in 1966 at 54 and his wife died several years ago, leaving the medals unclaimed in a safe-deposit box.
The Times said Chiang was able to get the two medals thanks to a new state law that eliminated troublesome bureaucratic roadblocks.