Texas sailor killed in Pearl Harbor comes home, 79 years later


WASHINGTON – Navy Seaman 2nd Class Charles L. Saunders, 18, of Winnie, Texas is expected to be buried for the third time in December. This time, however, he’ll be laid to rest in his hometown. He was identified and accounted for in February 2021, 79 years after his death during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Saunders was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when multiple hits from torpedoes caused the ship to capsize. Including the teenaged Saunders, the attack killed 429 crewmen aboard.

Saunders’ was first buried after the attack somewhere between December 1941 and June 1944, when Navy personnel recovered and interred the remains of the fallen crew in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries.

In September 1947, members of the American Graves Registration Serice (AGRS) took the US remains from the cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. However, only 35 of the crew from the USS Oklahoma were able to be identified at the time. Because of this, Saunders was buried for the second time among 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. He was classified as “non-recoverable” in October 1949.

In 2015, Saunders was taken from the Punchbowl for another analysis alongside the other USS Oklahoma Unknowns. Using dental and anthropological analysis. as well as DNA analysis, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System were able to identify Saunders.

Now, Saunders’ third, and perhaps final, burial was scheduled for Dec. 7 in Winnie, Texas.

The DPAA said that Saunders’ 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 note that he has been accounted for.

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