US Navy Sailors Who Died at Pearl Harbor Identified After 75 Years

An aerial view of salvage operations on 19 March 1943, looking toward Ford Island, with ship in 90 degree position.
An aerial view of salvage operations on 19 March 1943, looking toward Ford Island, with ship in 90 degree position.

The remains of five US Navy sailors who died in the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor were identified this year, more than 75 years after their ship sank.

The remains were exhumed from their unknown graves in 2015 and were transported to US military facilities where they were examined, and tests were undertaken to identify them.

Almost 430 US Navy sailors, crew, and US Marines died on the USS Oklahoma when the ship was torpedoed by aircraft from the Japanese Imperial Navy. The ship capsized and sank to the bottom of the harbor. Hundreds of bodies were retrieved, but could not be identified and so were buried as unknowns.

It was the USS Arizona that lost the most lives with more than 1,100 troops killed when the ship exploded and sank. It remains at the bottom of the harbor and has been classified as a historic site.

The five sailors from the USS Oklahoma whose bodies have been exhumed have been identified as:

Albert Hayden a Chief Petty Officer – he was 44 years old and was from Saint Mary’s County;

Lewis Stockdale an Ensign – he was 27 years old and from Montana;

Dale Pearce a Seaman 2nd Class – he was 21 years old and from Kansas;

Vernon Luke a Petty Officer 1st Class – he was 43 years old and from Wisconsin

Duff Gordon a Chief Petty Officer – he was 52 years old and also from Wisconsin.

The attacks on Pearl Harbor took place on 7th December 1941 when the Japanese Imperial Navy decimated the US Navy Pacific Fleet at anchor.

Albert Hayden had already fought in World War One and had joined the US Navy in 1917. Duff Gordon may have been one of the oldest sailors on the ship, while Dale Pearce would have been one of the youngest.

Lewis Stockdale later had a US destroyer escort ship named after him, and it was christened by his family members.

The sailors were only able to be identified with new technology and advances in science which have become available. Dental records from before World War Two have been used and compared with the make-up of the teeth from the sailors.

The sailors are the first to be identified and are part of a wider project organized by the US Defense Department to retrieve and identify the remains of almost 400 of the USS Oklahoma’s unknown sailors.

Ian Harvey

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