USS Oklahoma Sailor after 74 years Finally Accounted For

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The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman from World War II have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Navy Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Alfred F. Wells, 32, of Syracuse, New York, will be buried June 11 in his hometown. On Dec. 7, 1941, Wells was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in 429 casualties, including Wells.

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

In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as “non-recoverable,” including Wells.

In April 2015, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a policy memorandum directing the disinterment of unknowns associated with the USS Oklahoma. On June 15, 2015, DPAA personnel began exhuming the remains from the NMCP for analysis. To identify Wells’ remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA analysis, which matched a cousin; as well as circumstantial evidence and laboratory analysis, to include dental comparisons, which matched Wells’ records.

Since March 2016 several USS Oklahoma sailors have been accounted for, including: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Vernon T. Luke, Navy Ensign Lewis S. Stockdale, Navy Chief Petty Officer Duff Gordon, Navy Chief Petty Officer Albert E. Hayden, Navy Chief Storekeeper Herbert J. Hoard and Navy Seaman 2nd Class Dale F. Pearce.

USS Oklahoma salvage. Aerial view toward shore with ship in 90 degree position. Wells Battleship

19 March 1943, USS Oklahoma salvage. Aerial view toward shore with ship in 90 degree position.

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Argunners Magazine is an independent online historian and collector's magazine, dedicated to the militaria and history of both Axis and Allied powers during the World War 1 & 2. Argunners is a central resource offering the latest militaria and war history news, journals, articles and press releases related to these themes.

1 Comment

  1. Robert Hillman on

    After all these years sailors who died on USS Oklahoma on December 7,1941 can finally rest in peace.

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