Laid to Rest: Burials After the Battle
The battle is long over, succeeded by 75 years of American history, but there are still soldiers who were killed in the thick of the Japanese attack that were somehow never given the proper burial they deserve. Sailors like Walter Henry Sollie, a crewman on the USS Oklahoma, never made it out of the battle and it was never known what happened to the young sailor. Lost in the thick of the skirmish, many like Sollie were simply labeled Killed in Action, their remains never found to receive a proper burial.
The rest of the story of Walter Henry Sollie serves as a glimmer of hope for the families of other lost men, those unsung heroes who remain tied to the devastation without being properly laid to rest. Almost 75 years after the smoke cleared in the harbor and most of the vessels that sank were raised, repaired, and sent back to war, the remains of the young patriot were identified via DNA and returned to his family.
Henry Sollie is the latest in a series of belated burials, but he wasn't the first. In 2016, Navy Chief Petty Officer Albert Eugene Hayden was given a proper burial next to his parents in a small cemetery in St. Mary’s County, MD. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hayden was aboard the USS Oklahoma when his life was lost, his body trapped in the remains of the battleship with hundreds of other sailors.
In August of 2016, the remains of John Charles England were among hundreds that started to get their proper recognition. England had also been aboard the Oklahoma when the Japanese struck. As his fellow sailors struggled to abandon the sinking vessel, England took it upon himself to try and save his fellow crewmen. Although he made a return trip to the ship, he never made it off, his life lost with many of the other servicemen on the Oklahoma.
The Defense Department started a program to identify the remains of soldiers like Sollie, Hayden and England. Caskets have started to be exhumed for proper identification under this program. As the DoD continues its efforts to name soldiers who were buried without a proper marking, the identities of more and more of these Pearl Harbor heroes will be revealed.
The Pearl Harbor Memorials
To learn more about the lives lost and the heroes created on December 7th, 1941, visit the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor. Here is where you can get an in-depth look at the devastation of the surprise Japanese attack and its aftermath .
Tour the Battleship Missouri, view the wreckage of the USS Arizona, and drive through the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, where fallen soldiers from World War II onward have been laid to rest.