A Navy sailor who lost his life during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will be laid to rest in his hometown this weekend. Fireman 1st Class Kenneth E. Doernenburg was accounted for on March 25, 2021, thanks to work by the POW/MIA Accounting Agency, also known as the DPAA.
Doernenburg was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He was aboard the ship when the Japanese attacked the harbor on December 7, 1941. It quickly capsized after sustaining multiple torpedo hits, resulting in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Doernenburg.
From December 1941 until June 1944, the Navy recovered the remains of the deceased crew of the USS Oklahoma and interred them at the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries in Hawaii.
In September 1947, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) were tasked with recovering and identifying fallen US military members in the Pacific Theater. They disinterred the remains of US casualties from both cemeteries and brought them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks.
The staff was only able to identify 35 men from the USS Oklahoma. The remains of those who could not be identified were buried by the AGRS at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.
In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable.
The DPAA conducted its own identification efforts between June and November 2015. It exhumed the remains of the USS Oklahoma Unknowns for analysis and was able to identify Doernenburg through the use of dental and anthropological analysis. Scientists with the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System also used Y-chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis to confirm the identification.
Kenneth E. Doernenburg was officially accounted for on March 25, 2021. His name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with others who went missing during World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has since been accounted for.
As of September 17, 2021, the Department of Defense has identified the majority of remains from the USS Oklahoma.
Doernenburg was awarded a Purple Heart for his efforts during the war. He is scheduled to be buried in his hometown of Antigo, Wisconsin on September 25, 2021.