FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - The remains of a third Kentucky sailor killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor has been identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
Navy Fireman 1st Class Billy J. Johnson, 22, of Caney, in Morgan County, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941. The ship sustained several torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Johnson and two other Kentucky natives.
From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew, which were subsequently interred in two cemeteries in Hawaii.
In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks.
The DPAA says 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, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Johnson.
Between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknown remains from the Punchbowl for analysis.
To identify Johnson’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,692 still unaccounted for from World War II, of which approximately 30,000 are assessed as possibly recoverable. Johnson’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Johnson, who will be buried next month in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the third native Kentuckian who was aboard the USS Oklahoma during the Pearl Harbor attack, whose identification has been made since 2017.
US Navy Fireman 1st Class Samuel W. Crowder was buried with full military honors, December 9, 2017 in Louisville, following identification by DNA analysis.
Seaman First Class Millard Burk, Jr., of Pikeville, had his remains identified last month. He is to be re-buried at the Punchbowl on Friday, July 19.
Gov. Matt Bevin has ordered flags at all state office buildings to be flown at half-staff on that date.