He Died At Pearl Harbor, But Only Now His Remains Have Come Home

Walkowiak was buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. Photo Credit

Navy Fireman 3rd Class Robert N. Walkowiak, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was twenty years old when he was killed on board the USS Oklahoma on December 7, 1941. The ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft when they attacked Pearl Harbor. After being hit by several torpedoes, the ship sunk quickly, taking 429 crewmen down with it. Only the USS Arizona lost more lives in the attack.

Navy personnel worked from December 1941 to June 1944 to recover the crew’s remains. The remains were buried in Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries.

The American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred those remains in September 1947. They were transferred to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The staff there was able to identify 35 of the men from the Oklahoma.

The rest of the remains were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. The crewmembers of the Oklahoma that could not be identified were classified as non-recoverable by a military board in October of 1949.

In April of 2015, the Deputy Secretary of Defense authorized exhuming the remains of the unidentified crewmen of the Oklahoma for analysis. On June 15, 2015, the DPAA began the disinterment process.

Scientists of the DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, which matched a niece, along with circumstantial evidence and laboratory analysis, including dental comparisons, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reported.

Walkowiak was buried on April 28 in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. He was buried with full military honors.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE