September 22, 2020
By News Director Jared Atha
An Oklahoma sailor from Hobart who was killed during World War II in 1941 but formally identified and accounted for in 2019 through DNA analysis will finally be laid to rest.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that then 23-year-old Navy Fireman 1st Class James C. Webb was killed during World War II, was accounted for on July 29, 2019.
James was born on November 26, 1918 to Milton L. Webb and Emma L. Webb Millican in Hobart.
Webb enlisted in the U.S. Navy on January 30, 1940 in Little Rock, Arkansas and reported for duty aboard the USS Oklahoma on June 13, 1940. As part of the effort to check Japanese aggression, the U.S. Pacific Fleet conducted exercises in the waters off Hawaii beginning in May 1940.
After the maneuvers, the fleet remained in Pearl Harbor to provide more of a forward presence than was possible from the U.S. West Coast. The USS Oklahoma arrived in Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1940, one year and one day prior to the fateful attack, and spent the next several months participating in exercises and conducting patrols.
On December 7, 1941, Webb was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma 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 Webb.
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 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 in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Webb.
Between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the location for analysis.
To identify Webb’s remains, scientists from DPAA used, among other means, dental and anthropological analysis.
Webb’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, along with the others who are still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
A graveside Memorial Service will be 2 p.m., Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at the Dale Cemetery.