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Kentucky sailor Harold Magers finally finds resting place at home, was killed in Pearl Harbor attack

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

A Kentucky sailor who was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and whose remains were unidentified for years, was buried back in his native state this Memorial Day weekend.

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, or DPAA, on Dec. 7, 1941, Navy Seaman 2nd Class Howard S. Magers of the Merry Oaks community in Barren County, 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 Magers.

Harold Magers

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 in Hawaii.

In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service, or AGRS, exhumed the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. However, due to the technology available at that time, the laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma.

The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, or NMCP, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Magers.

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

To identify Magers’ remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, while scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used two types of DNA analysis.

Magers’ 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.

He was buried on Saturday, May 29, in Smith’s Grove, Kentucky.

Gov. Andy Beshear ordered flags at all state buildings to be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Saturday, in honor of Magers.

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