Sailor Killed During Attack on Pearl Harbor Laid to Rest

Photo Credit: 1. DPAA 2. USN / Wikimedia Commons

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers ordered flags across the state be lowered to half-staff on November 8, 2021 in memory of Navy Hospital Apprentice First Class Keefe Richard Connolly, who perished during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Naval portrait of Keefe R. Connolly
Navy Hospital Apprentice First Class Keefe R. Connolly. (Photo Credit: DPAA)

Keefe R. Connolly joined the US Navy in October 1937 and was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor when the Japanese launched their attack. The ship sustained numerous torpedo hits and capsized, leading to the death of 429 crewmen, including Connolly.

For his service, he received the Purple Heart, a military honor awarded to those wounded or killed in combat.

USS Oklahoma at sea
USS Oklahoma prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, 1920. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Navy personnel worked to recover the remains of the deceased crew between December 1941 to June 1944, and they were interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries in Hawaii. In September 1947, the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) was tasked with recovering and identifying the remains of US casualties in the Pacific Theater. They disinterred those laid to rest at the cemeteries and transfer them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks.

Unfortunately, they were only able to identify 35 of the men. The rest were buried in 46 plots 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, including Connolly.

Between June and November 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis, and Connolly was accounted on February 11, 2021.

His remains were identified through the use of dental and anthropological analysis. Scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System also used autosomal DNA (auSTR) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.

USS Oklahoma surrounded by smoke
USS Oklahoma on fire following during the attack by the Japanese. (Photo Credit: USN / Wikimedia Commons)

Keefe R. Connolly was laid to rest on November 8 with full military honors at the Markesan Memorial Cemetery in Markesan, Wisconsin. In his honor, Governor Evers signed an executive order ensuring all flags across the state were flown at half-staff.

“I want to thank all the folks who have worked to ensure Navy Hospital Apprentice 1st Class Connolly was able to return home after all these years, so he can be laid to rest in his home state,” Evers said in a statement. “We are thankful for his service and his sacrifice, and we hope this final journey brings peace to his memory.”

USS Shaw exploding
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Connolly’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with others who are missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.