The memory and sacrifice of Navy Chief Carpenter John Arnold Austin , killed during the attack on the USS Oklahoma in World War II will be honored Wednesday June 12th, 2019, 11:30 a.m. at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), Navy Chief Carpenter John Arnold Austin, killed during World War II, was accounted for on October 5, 2018.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Austin was 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, including Austin.
Hailed as a hero by crewmates, thirty-six-year-old Chief Warrant Officer Austin was reported to have helped 15 men through an open porthole to safety when the ship capsized.
In 1942, an Evarts class destroyer was laid down and named the USS Austin in his honor. It was launched in September 1942 and saw action in the North Pacific, off the coast of Alaska, and as an escort ship at Iwo Jima before being decommissioned in 1945.
Only 35 of the dead Oklahoma crewmen were able to be identified immediately after the attack, which killed 2,402 in all and debilitated the U.S. Pacific Fleet for a time.
In 1947, after the Navy had spent nearly three years salvaging the Oklahoma, including pulling human remains from it and burying them, the American Graves Registration Service disinterred those remains but was unable to identify any new 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. (Source: Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA))
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,866 (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Austin’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.
Austin’s personnel profile can be viewed here.
Not stopping with the Oklahoma…
The 388 sailors and Marines with the Oklahoma who were listed as unknown at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific are are among thousands of unknowns buried there, including some who also perished during the attack on Pearl Harbor, but since 2015, officials with the the Pentagon’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency have been working on a new policy to recover and identify remains of the unknown, relying on extensive research on family history, along with obtaining medical and dental records, and DNA technology, according to KHON2.
“We’re going to start with the USS Oklahoma, but we will also be looking at other unknown graves to determine if they are eligible for disinterment in the future,” Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan told KHON2.