Remains of Sailor Killed in Pearl Harbor Identified

Craig Bowman
Courtesy Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

A sailor killed on the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, has been positively identified and his remains will be returned to his family for burial on October 24 in Plano, Texas.

Navy Coxswain Layton T. Banks of Dallas, Texas, enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17 and was assigned to the USS Oklahoma when he was just 20 years old.

He got married three months before the attack. The ship was struck by several torpedoes from Japanese planes in the surprise attack. The Oklahoma sank quickly, killing 429 crew members, including Banks.

The USS Oklahoma capsizes during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The USS Oklahoma capsizes during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Navy spent the next three years recovering the remains of the dead from the wreckage. As of 1947, only 35 crew members had been identified. The rest were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, Hawaii. In 1949,  those crew members who had not been identified were classified as non-recoverable.

In 2015 the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) exhumed the remains of USS Oklahoma sailors and used new technology, including mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis and anthropological analysis to identify Banks on October 8, 2019.

Banks’ nephew, David Titsworth, said that, while they would rather Banks not have died, at least his sacrifice was important for the freedom of the country.

Coxswain Layton T. Banks was only 20 when he perished aboard the USS Oklahoma. Courtesy of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
Coxswain Layton T. Banks was only 20 when he perished aboard the USS Oklahoma. Courtesy of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

Bank’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing in the Punchbowl. His name will receive a rosette next to it to indicate that he has now been accounted for.

The USS Oklahoma was moored on Battleship Row when the Japanese used dive-bombers, fighter-bombers, and torpedo planes to launch the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Nine ships were sunk, including five battleships. A total of 21 ships were severely damaged. 2,402 US service members died in the attack.

The Navy decided that it could not save the Oklahoma so they righted the ship in order to salvage what they could and then sold the hull to a private company. The company tried to tow the hull to California but it sank in the Pacific 500 miles east of Hawaii.

The USS Oklahoma was pulled upright before being taken away for scrapping.
The USS Oklahoma was pulled upright before being taken away for scrapping.

There is a memorial to the lost sailors of the Oklahoma on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The attack was a catalyst for the American people who had been divided about entering the war. The day after the attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. Three days later, the Germans declared war on the US due to their alliance with Japan. This makes December 11, 1941, the day the US officially entered WWII.

The Punchbowl cemetery gets its nickname from the Punchbowl volcanic crater which is the site of the cemetery. More than 500 million visitors come to the cemetery each year. They both pay their respects to the dead and enjoy the spectacular views of the island of Oahu offered by the crater’s highest point.

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The cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.