A 24-year-old sailor killed aboard the USS Oklahoma during the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was laid to rest Tuesday at Riverside National Cemetery.
According to the Department of Defense, Kirby R. Stapleton’s remains were positively identified in August 2018 by scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System using mitochondrial DNA samples, dental and anthropological records.
The remains had been previously interred at a gravesite known as the “Punchbowl” reserved for unknown casualties from the Pearl Harbor attack. They were disinterred for re-examination by order of the Department of Defense in 2015. Prior attempts to make identification, mainly in the late 1940s, had proved futile using methods then available.
A small gathering of Stapleton’s remaining relatives, along with Naval personnel and assorted invitees, paid final respects to the fallen seaman.
The ceremony, which the Cypress-based nonprofit Honoring Our Fallen captured on video and posted to YouTube, included a color guard gun salute and flag presentation.
Stapleton’s remains were encased in a hand-carried decorated protective box, which was placed on a pedestal alongside black-and-white photographs of him before and after the Missouri native enlisted in the Navy in the fall of 1940.
An empty uniform shirt bearing his rank of seaman first class was stationed upright next to the pictorial display.
Stapleton’s nephew — his older brother’s son — received the flag given in recognition of the young man’s loss.
Stapleton was among 429 sailors who perished aboard the Oklahoma when the ship capsized after Japanese torpedo bombers pummeled the vessel in the sneak attack that propelled the U.S. into World War II, according to the Pentagon.
Stapleton had specifically requested to serve aboard the Oklahoma to be with his older brother, who survived the sinking, according to family.