Once labeled ‘non-recoverable,’ Dallas City sailor who died in Pearl Harbor attack on USS Oklahoma now accounted for


Robert J. Harr

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Thursday that Navy Fireman 1st Class Robert J. Harr, 25, of Dallas City, Ill., killed during World War II, was accounted for on Feb. 12, 2021.

Harr was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, causing it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Harr.

From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew. They were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries.

Tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them in September 1947 to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff confirmed the identifications of 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 non-recoverable, including Harr.

Between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis. To identify Harr’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis.

Harr’s name is recorded on the Courts 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.

Harr will be buried on Aug. 14, 2021, in Rutledge, Mo.

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