A Sailor Who Served On The USS Oklahoma In World War II Has Been Identified

USS Oklahoma, USS Maryland and USS West Virginia during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.
USS Oklahoma, USS Maryland and USS West Virginia during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.

Full military honors were accorded to the remains of a missing Second World War U.S. serviceman following identification after being returned to his family for internment, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced recently.

Navy Seaman 2nd Vernon N. Grow, 25, of Redding, California was interred April 7 in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Grow, assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbour, was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The ship was hit multiple times by torpedoes, causing it to capsize rapidly.  The attack killed 429 crewmen, including Grow.  No individual vessel at Pearl Harbour, excepting the USS Arizona, had as many fatalities.

From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel removed the remains of the deceased crew, which were later buried in the Nu’uanu and Halawa Cemeteries.

In September 1947, charged with recovering and identifying deceased in the Pacific Theatre American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) members disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and moved them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks.

The laboratory staff was only able to verify the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at the time. The AGRS later buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the Honolulu-based National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl.

In October 1949, a military panel categorized those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, which included Grow.

The deputy secretary of Defence in April 2015 issued a policy memo directing the disinterment of unknowns related to the USS Oklahoma.  Two months later, DPAA personnel started exhuming the remains from the NMCP for analysis.

To identify Grow’s remains, scientists from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory and DPAA employed a method called mitochondrial DNA analysis, which was a match to his cousins, in addition to laboratory analysis and circumstantial evidence, to include dental comparisons, which matched Grow’s records, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reported.

Sixteen million Americans served in World War II. Over 400,000 died during the war. Presently there are 73,072 service members still unaccounted for from the Second World War.

Ian Harvey

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