9 sailors from USS Oklahoma accounted for

9 sailors from USS Oklahoma accounted for
Navy Signalman 1st Class Eugene M. Skaggs on the left and Navy Fireman 2nd Class Ralph C. Battles on the right. Photo credit DPAA

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced this week nine sailors who died aboard the USS Oklahoma have been accounted for.

Navy Signalman 1st Class Eugene M. Skaggs, 33, of Ansted, West Virginia, Navy Fireman 2nd Class Ralph C. Battles, 25, of Boaz, Alabama, and Navy Fireman 1st Class Robert J. Harr, 25, were accounted for on Feb. 12, 2021.

Navy Pharmacist’s Mate 3rd Class George L. Paradis, 23, of Yelm, Washington, was accounted for on Feb. 24, 2021. Navy Storekeeper 1st Class Harry E. Walker, 36, was accounted for on March 9, 2021. Navy Seaman 2nd Class Arthur R. Thinnes, 17, was accounted for on March 24, 2021.

Navy Metalsmith 1st Class Leonard F. Smith, 29, of Albany, New York, was accounted for on April 16, 2020. Navy Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class George M. Gooch, 22, of Laclede, Missouri, and Navy Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Alphard S. Owsley, 23, of Paris, Kentucky, was accounted for on Sept. 14, 2020.

9 sailors from USS Oklahoma accounted for
Navy Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class George M. Gooch on the left and Navy Fireman 1st Class Robert J. Harr on the right. Photo credit DPAA

On Dec. 7, 1941, the nine sailors were assigned to the battleship 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 the deaths of 429 crewmen.

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.

Between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis.

To identify the sailors remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR) and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.

These nine sailors' names are recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to their names to indicate they have been accounted for.

Owsley will be buried Aug. 5, 2021, in his hometown.

Skaggs will be buried on Aug. 18, 2021, in Riverside, California.

Battles will be buried on Aug. 28, 2021, in his hometown.

Smith will be cremated on Sept. 1, 2021. The family has elected to not hold a funeral service.

Paradis will be buried on Oct. 7, 2021, at the NMCP.

Gooch will be buried Oct. 9, 2021, in his hometown