A Kentucky sailor, one of more than 400 killed aboard the battleship Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, has been identified. And now he will be buried in his hometown next month, the military said.
Navy Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Alphard S. Owsley, 23, of Paris, Kentucky, was killed when his ship, the battleship Oklahoma, was attacked by Japanese aircraft.
The Oklahoma was hit by multiple torpedoes and it quickly capsized. Owsley was among 429 crewmen who died on the ship as a result.
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, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The remains of U.S. casualties in the two cemeteries were disinterred in September 1947, by members of the American Graves Registration Service. They were tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, according to DPAA. The remains were then transferred to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks.
Initially, laboratory staff were only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the vessel, according to DPAA. The AGRS later buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. A military board in October 1949 classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Owsley. But between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed those remains from Punchbowl for analysis, according to DPAA. Scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis to identify Owsley. Scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System also used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis. Along with others missing from WWII, Owsley’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, according to DPAA. Now, a rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Owsley will be buried Aug. 5, 2021, in his hometown.
This story contains information from the Associated Press.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.