The December 2017 issue of America in WWII magazine includes an article written by myself that focuses on the tremendous efforts by the historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, military personnel, researchers, and other civilian workers that make up the Department of POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) at Joint Base-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii, and their latest successes and goals in identifying the remains of U.S. servicemen from our past wars.
What began as a story I was in the process of developing due to my work as a US naval historian, suddenly turned into a personal one for my wife and I upon learning of my father-in-law’s discovery that he had an uncle that had been killed at Pearl Harbor he hadn’t known of. PFC Charles Robert Taylor, a 23-year-old from Carnegie, Oklahoma, died onboard USS Oklahoma (BB-37). Taylor was one of the 40 men that made up USS Oklahoma’s marine corps detachment. Of the 429 men killed aboard the Oklahoma, 35 were identified, and the rest were buried in a mass grave at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (the “Punchbowl”). As of February 2017, 30 more sets of remains from USS Oklahoma have been identified, and several more have been identified since then (the exact number was unavailable to me).
With the 75th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor last December, my wife and I traveled to Honolulu to try and discover where DPAA was in the process of identifying our missing servicemen’s remains and how they went about doing so. We also wanted to pay tribute to PFC Taylor and all of his shipmates and comrades during the war.