Previously 'Unknown' Pearl Harbor Victim Reburied With Full Honors
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 29, 2006 A once-unidentified sailor killed in the Pearl Harbor attack almost 65 years ago was laid to rest today with full honors and a grave marker bearing his name, thanks to sleuth work by a Pearl Harbor survivor and U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command's expertise.
Navy Seaman 2nd Class Warren Paul Hickock was buried with full military honors in Honolulu on March 29, more than 64 years after he died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. His remains were only recently identified. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
Seaman 2nd Class Warren Paul Hickok was reinterred this morning at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, more commonly called the Punchbowl. The 18-year-old Kalamazoo, Mich., native had been among more than 1,500 sailors, soldiers, Marines and civilians killed during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack but never identified.
Hickok was assigned to the light mine layer USS Sicard when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. According to defense officials, many Sicard crewmembers had been dispatched at the time to help the crew of USS Cummings, a destroyer docked nearby. The Cummings got under way and cleared Pearl Harbor after the attack and reported no injuries.
An investigation into those still unaccounted-for determined that Hickok may have been among the Sicard crewmen aboard USS Pennsylvania during the attack. However, he was not among those reported lost, officials said.
In the days following the attack, the unidentified dead, including a sailor identified only as "X-2," were buried in Nuuanu Cemetery in Oahu, Hawaii. Years later, after World War II ended, the Army Graves Registration Service disinterred the remains and attempted to identify them.
Those that couldn't be identified, including "X-2's," were reburied at the Punchbowl on June 9, 1949, defense officials said. About 1,000 others are interred aboard USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor.
This might have been the end of the story, except for the detective work of Ray Emory, a Pearl Harbor survivor and researcher who has spent the past 12 years trying to help match names to unknowns.
Emory, a sailor assigned to USS Honolulu during the attack, calls his effort a labor of love to help honor the memories of those who died and to bring closure to their families. "I'll be doing this to my dying day," said the 84-year-old Hawaii resident.
He scrubs deceased servicemembers' military records, most obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, looking for details that link them to those unidentified from the Pearl Harbor attack. "You usually need five or six documents to put the puzzle together,' he said, calling the effort "a lot like chess."
As in many of the other cases he investigates, dental and medical records offered the critical clues in linking the unknown sailor designated as "X-2" to Hickok, he said. When he thought he was on to something, Emory said, he contacted JPAC, which found his evidence convincing enough to exhume the grave last June.
Forensic anthropologists from the command used historical reports, dental and anthropological analysis and mitochondrial DNA to successfully match the remains with information in Hickok's military records, defense officials said.
Heather Harris, the JPAC historian who wrote the historical report for Hickok's case, verified the new information, which led to a second examination of the remains and his ultimate identification.
"We got lucky in our reexamination of the case," said Harris. "During the original processing of X-2 Nuuanu, they noted in their paperwork that he had a healed right femur. Hickok's medical records had no indication of this injury, but when I looked at his paperwork from his enlistment to the service (paperwork that wouldn't have been previously available), I noticed that he had written that he'd broken his right leg as a boy."
The Defense Department announced the successful identification Dec. 16, 2005.
Harris said information from third parties often proves valuable in bringing a case to JPAC's attention.
"Mr. Emory has been collecting and analyzing information about World War II unknowns and the unknowns associated with the attack on Pearl Harbor for longer than I have been alive," Harris said. "He amassed a prodigious amount of information and developed a keen understanding of how the information he obtained fit together.
"That said, JPAC historians and analysts often have easier access to much of this information and can obtain information that Mr. Emory may have a difficult time obtaining," she said. "In this instance, we were able to use the information Mr. Emory provided as a starting point for researching the case."
Emory said he gets a huge lift by helping to piece together an unsolved case. "You don't know how good it feels to get a call from JPAC saying, 'You've done it again," he said. But the biggest reward, he said, is being able to call family members and tell them that their loved one has been identified.
In the Hickok case, tracking down his only living survivor took a bit of detective work, too, Emory said. Failing to locate them through a records search, he contacted the Kalamazoo newspaper, which ran an article about the successful identification and the attempt to locate Hickok's sister. The article made its way to the Internet, and eventually Hickok was able to make contact with Marilyn "Kay" Woodring, now living in Florida.
"She was astounded," Woodring said. He was looking forward to meeting her for the first time today, at Hickok's funeral.
Harris said it's important to identify all unknowns from past conflicts to acknowledge and honor each individual's sacrifice. Of the 88,000 unaccounted-for Americans from all conflicts, 78,000 are from World War II.
"To acknowledge the commitments of the dead, we also recognize the loss incurred by their family and friends and, while we can never return their loved one, we can offer them the solace that comes with knowing what happened and being able to bury them," she said. "We recommit ourselves to a national sentiment that we will not leave our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines behind and we won't forget their sacrifice."
(Compiled from Defense Department and Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command releases and an interview by American Forces Press Service.)