He Gave His Life At Pearl Harbor, Now He Will Be Buried With Full Military Honors

USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor
USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor

Navy Fireman 1st Class William H. Kennedy, of Titonka, Iowa, was 24 when he was killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Kennedy served aboard the USS Oklahoma, which received several hits from enemy torpedoes on December 7, 1941, while moored at Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. The ship capsized rapidly, trapping 429 crewmen aboard when it sank. Kennedy was among those killed. Only the USS Arizona received as many casualties during the attack.

Navy personnel worked from December 1941 to June 1944 to recover the remains of the deceased from the sunken ship. The remains were interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries.

The American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) was given the task of recovering and identifying deceased service members in the Pacific Theater. Members of the AGRS disinterred the remains from Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries and moved them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. At that time, they were able to identify 35 sailors from the Oklahoma.

The remains that could not be identified were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. A military board classified the unidentified men from the Oklahoma as non-recoverable in October 1949. Kennedy was among those classified as such.

In April 2015, the Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the unknown remains from the Oklahoma be disinterred for analysis. The Defense POW\MIA Accountability Agency (DPAA) began this work on June 15, 2015.

DPAA scientists used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis to match Kennedy’s remains to a niece and a great grand nephew. They also used circumstantial evidence and laboratory analysis, including dental comparisons, to positively identify Kennedy’s remains.

The remains will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reported.

Over 400,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were killed during the war. There are still 73,061 servicemembers that remain unaccounted for from WWII.

Ian Harvey

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