F1c William H. Kennedy, 24, of Titonka died December 7, 1941, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on board the USS Battleship Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor at 8am that Sunday morning. After 75 years, the remains of Fireman 1st Class William H. Kennedy have been identified and will be brought home for burial next to his mother in the Buffalo Township Cemetery, Titonka.
Planeside honors will be conducted at 11:00 AM on Thursday, May 11th on the tarmac of the Des Moines International Airport. His body will be escorted to Titonka where the public can pay tribute from 5 to 7 PM Thursday evening at Oakcrest Funeral Services of Titonka.
A funeral service will be Friday, May 12th, at 10:00 AM, at the Titonka United Methodist Church. Military graveside honors will follow at the Buffalo Township Cemetery conducted by the United States Navy Honor Guard, the William H. Kennedy VFW Post # 4071 of Titonka, and many other local American Legions and VFW Honor Guards.
William H. "Willy" Kennedy was born on April 6, 1917 in Swea City, Iowa. He graduated from the Titonka High School in 1934. He loved to play baseball with both the high school and town teams. After graduation he worked for a local farmer, drove truck for Harold Miller, took a diesel engine course in Des Moines and attended a business college in Tyler, Texas. He joined the Navy on July 9, 1940, and went to Great Lakes Training Center. Willy was sent to San Francisco then finally to Pearl Harbor to board the U.S.S. Oklahoma. He held the rank of Fireman First Class. The local VFW Post in Titonka carries his name.
Bringing Home a Hero
The remains of the 429 sailors and Marines killed on the Oklahoma were found in the months and years following the attack, but the effects of decomposition allowed only a small number to be positively identified.
In 1944, the bodies of the unidentified were buried as "unknowns" in two Hawaiian cemeteries. They were exhumed three years later in an attempt to identify them using dental records, but when those efforts proved unsuccessful, they were reburied in 1950 in 61 caskets at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
More than half a century later, in 2003, one of those caskets was dug up and five crewmembers were identified thanks to modern DNA testing. Four years later, another casket was disinterred and an additional member of the Oklahoma's crew identified.
In light of those findings, the U.S. Department of Defense announced in 2015 that the remaining caskets would be exhumed and efforts made to identify the rest of the 388 unknowns of the Oklahoma's crew and return them to their families.
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