David Walker, Pearl Harbor Attack

19-Year-Old Black Sailor Identified 80 Years After Death During Pearl Harbor Attack

David Walker will be laid to rest at the Arlington National Cemetery.

DNA analysis helped the United States Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) identify the remains of David Walker, a Black 19-year-old sailor from Virginia who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. 

As CNN reports, Walker was aboard the USS California, the battleship Japanese pilots attacked during World War II. The agency said in a press release that Walker was serving as a Mess Attendant 3rd Class when he was killed during the attack. 

Following the attack, the U.S. Navy recovered the bodies and remains of the crew, who were later buried in Hawaii. Walker’s remains, according to the release, were recently identified by the use of anthropological and dental analysis in addition to the use of mitochondrial DNA analysis. 

Walker’s name has now been recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. According to the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), when a soldier is accounted for, a rosette marks the names of those identified and accounted for. 

According to the ABMC, “The Memorial sits in what is known locally as the Punchbowl Crater. It was once a volcano symbol of earthly violence. Now it is a quiet place of contemplation. It honors Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the raging fires of three wars: World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.”

As NPR reports, DNA technology developments have made identifying military personnel easier. The advance in technology is credited with assisting in identifying most of the 400 service members who went missing on the USS Oklahoma, another ship that was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

According to the DPAA, Walker was accounted for on Nov. 27, 2023. As recounted on its site, “Mess Attendant Walker entered the U.S. Navy from Virginia and served aboard the Tennessee-class battleship USS California (BB-44). On Sunday, December 7, 1941, Japanese carrier-based aircraft launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Navy base and ships at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In the early minutes of the attack, the California was hit by two torpedoes, which pierced the ship’s port side, and a bomb, which struck the ship’s upper deck. The ship sustained significant damage, and over one hundred sailor and Marine lives were lost in the attack.”

Walker will be laid to rest at the Arlington National Cemetery on Sept. 5, 2024. 

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