Remains of Levelland Sailor identified, accounted for nearly 80 years later

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LEVELLAND, Texas– The remains of a Sailor from Levelland were accounted for, nearly 80 years after he was killed at Pearl Harbor.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) publicly announced Wednesday that Navy Fireman 1st Class James O. McDonald, 25, of Levelland, Texas, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Dec. 22, 2020.

The agency waited for his family to be notified before releasing the news.

McDonald was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor when the ship was attacked on Dec. 7th, 1941. He was among the 429 crewmen on the ship that died as a result of the attacks.

Scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner system identified McDonald’s remains by using DNA analysis.

 A rosette will be placed next to McDonald’s name on the Walls of the Missing, to indicate he has been accounted for.

For more information, read the press release from The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

The following is a press release:

WASHINGTON—The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Navy Fireman 1st Class James O. McDonald, 25, of Levelland, Texas, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Dec. 22, 2020.

On Dec. 7, 1941, McDonald 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 McDonald. 

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 September 1947, 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 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 AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including McDonald.

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

To identify McDonald’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.

McDonald’s 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.

McDonald will be buried at the NMCP in Honolulu on Jan. 19, 2022.

For family and funeral information, contact the Navy Service Casualty office at (800) 443-9298.

DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of the Navy for their partnership in this mission.

End of release.

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