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8 decades later, remains of a Virginia sailor killed in Pearl Harbor are identified

David Walker, a sailor killed in the WWII attack on Pearl Harbor, is memorialized at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. Soon, a rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate that he has been accounted for.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
David Walker, a sailor killed in the WWII attack on Pearl Harbor, is memorialized at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. Soon, a rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate that he has been accounted for.

David Walker from Norfolk, Va., was 19 years old when Japanese torpedoes sunk his battleship at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Walker was presumed dead following the attack on the Hawaii naval base, but his body was never recovered — that is, until recently.

Officials announcedon Thursday that Walker's remains were finally accounted for, thanks to scientists at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) whose mission is to recover and return missing service members from past conflicts.

In a news release, the DPAA said that in 2018, military officials exhumed the unidentified remains of 25 people who were from Walker's battleship, the USS California, and buried in Honolulu. According to the agency, scientists used anthropological, dental and DNA analysis to determine that Walker was among those remains.

The DPAA said Walker will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Sept. 5. A rosette will also be placed next to his name at the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu to indicate that he has been accounted for.

On Dec. 7, 1941, two torpedoes pierced the port side of the USS California, which was moored at Ford Island in Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The attack resulted in the deaths of 103 crew members, including Walker. The ship slowly sank over the next three days, according to the DPAA.

In total, about 2,300 service members and 68 civilians were killedin Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which later launched the U.S. into World War II. At the time, 960 sailors and marines were reported missing, according to aNew York Times article from 1942.

In recent years, advances in DNA technology have significantly helped identify the remains of missing military personnel. DNA testing was credited as a key method in the identification of the majority of the nearly 400 service members who went missing on the USS Oklahoma, another battleship that sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.