South Dakota sailor identified after 75 years of being 'non-recoverable'

The USS Oklahoma, sunk in the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, is shown here during salvage operations in 1943. (U.S. Navy photo)

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - A South Dakota sailor killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 will be laid to rest after finally being identified.

Navy Fireman 1st Class Walter B. Rogers, from Bison, was 22 years old when he was killed during the attack on the USS Oklahoma. The ship lost 429 of its crew.

From December 1941 to June 1944, the Navy recovered the remains of the crew, which were subsequently interred in two local cemeteries.

After the war, the remains of U.S. casualties were disinterred from the cemeteries and transferred to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time.

The remaining unidentified sailors where then buried in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. Rogers, along with others who could not be identified, were classified as non-recoverable.

Two years ago, the unidentified remains from the USS Oklahoma were again disinterred in an effort to identify them.

To identify Rogers' remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis, which matched his family. They also used dental analysis, which matched his records; and circumstantial.

Rogers was positively identified and accounted for on Feb.23, 2017.

He will be buried Oct. 2 in Arlington National Cemetery.

The USS Oklahoma, a 1910 battleship, was sunk in about 12 minutes after being hit by several Japanese torpedoes. While many of the damaged battleships were righted and returned to service, the Navy determined the Oklahoma was too damaged for service, and was sold for scrap in 1946.

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, there are 73,004 (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II.

Rogers' name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at an American Battle Monuments Commission site 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.