WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS4) – A Colorado sailor missing and presumed killed in the December 7, 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor, has been accounted for, the Navy said Thursday. Baker 2nd Class David L. Kesler, a Berthoud native, served aboard the USS Oklahoma.
The ship was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor when it was attacked by Japanese aircraft. It took several torpedo hits and quickly capsized.
429 crew members, including 23-year-old Kesler, died aboard ship in the attack.
The U.S. Navy recovered remains from December 1941 to June 1944. In September 1947, the American Graves Registration Service was tasked with disinterring remains of U.S. casualties from two cemeteries in Hawaii, and transferring them to an identification lab. At the time, the lab was only able to identify 35 men from the USS Oklahoma. The remaining were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
In 1949, the remaining men, including Kesler, were listed as non-recoverable.
In April 2015, the Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the disinterment of the remaining “unknowns” from the USS Oklahoma for identification. Scientists were able to use anthropological analysis, circumstantial and material evidence, and mitochondrial DNA analysis to make identifications. It was through this process that Kesler was identified.
Kelser’s name is etched into the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery. A rosette will be placed next to his name, indicating that he has been accounted for.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently, according to the Department of Defense, there are still 72,708 servicemembers still unaccounted for. Approximately 26,000 are listed as “possibly recoverable.”