Remains of Idaho sailor aboard USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor are identified, coming home

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A U.S. Navy sailor from Shelley, Idaho, who was killed at Pearl Harbor can now be listed as “accounted for,” and his remains will be buried in his hometown.

Navy Fireman 2nd Class Carl M. Bradley, was 19 and on board the battleship USS Oklahoma moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941, when his ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft — the surprise attack that launched the United States into World War II.

Navy Fireman 2nd Class Carl M. Bradley, 19, of Shelley, Idaho, was on board the battleship USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941, when his ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft.
Navy Fireman 2nd Class Carl M. Bradley, 19, of Shelley, Idaho, was on board the battleship USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941, when his ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft.

The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to capsize quickly. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Bradley.

Bradley’s remains were identified through a project of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

I first learned about this project in March after reading the obituary of William Eugene Blanchard, whose grandson Chris Blanchard lives here in Boise.

William Eugene Blanchard was killed on Dec. 7, 1941, on board the USS Oklahoma during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Blanchard’s remains were positively identified in January via DNA testing conducted by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
William Eugene Blanchard was killed on Dec. 7, 1941, on board the USS Oklahoma during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Blanchard’s remains were positively identified in January via DNA testing conducted by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

William Eugene Blanchard was also on the USS Oklahoma, and his remains were identified in January and subsequently returned to his family for a proper burial.

Bradley and Blanchard are among the now more than 300 previously unaccounted-for service members aboard the USS Oklahoma identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which is an agency within the U.S. Department of Defense whose mission is to recover U.S. military personnel who are listed as prisoners of war or missing in action from designated past conflicts.

From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the USS Oklahoma’s deceased crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries, according to a press release from the agency.

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 laboratory staff was able to confirm the identifications of only 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 nonrecoverable, including Bradley and Blanchard.

In 2015, Department of Defense officials approved the phased disinterment of all the USS Oklahoma caskets from the National Memorial Cemetery and transferred them to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and DNA testing began. DNA analysis was done by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System’s DNA Identification Laboratory in Dover, Delaware.

Between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis.

Up until then, only six USS Oklahoma crew members had been accounted for, leaving 388 left to identify.

With so many of the remains commingled in caskets, the Accounting Agency has spent the past several years separating the remains, conducting DNA tests on individual remains, categorizing them, then contacting family members for DNA samples to try to find matches.

To identify Bradley’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, according to the agency.

Bradley’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for, according to the agency.

Bradley will be buried on June 26 in his hometown.

Scott McIntosh is the opinion editor of the Idaho Statesman. You can email him at smcintosh@idahostatesman.com or call him at 208-377-6202. Follow him on Twitter @ScottMcIntosh12.

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