Sailor killed in Pearl Harbor attack accounted for and finally coming home nearly 80 years later

The remains of a 25-year-old central Alabama sailor, who was killed in World War II, were identified earlier this year by military scientists.


The remains of a 25-year-old central Alabama sailor killed in World War II were identified earlier this year by military scientists.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced Thursday that U.S. Navy Fireman 2nd Class Ralph C. Battles, of Boaz, was accounted for on Feb. 12, 2021.

Battles was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island (Pearl Harbor), when Japanese aircrafts attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. The ship sustained multiple torpedo hits, causing it to capsize quickly and killing 429 crew members.

From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of USS Oklahoma crew members and buried them in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries in Hawaii.

In September 1947, the DPAA says members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) transferred the remains to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks to work on identifying the sailors. At the time, the lab staff were only able to identify 35 men.

The AGRS then 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 Battles. His name was placed on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the other service members who are missing from WWII.

In June 2015, the DPAA exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis and another attempt at identification.

Using anthropological analysis, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis, Battles's remains were identified by scientists from the DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System.

Now that Battles has been identified, a rosette will be placed on the Walls of the Missing next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Battles will be buried on Aug. 28 in Boaz. Family and funeral information can be found by contacting the Navy Service Casualty office at 800-443-9298.