Henry County sailor killed at Pearl Harbor receives military burial

The final moments in the life of Middletown, Indiana native Francis Leon “Bud” Hannon came just before 8 a.m. on December 7, 1941, when the USS Oklahoma was rammed by Japanese torpedoes.

His final burial will be at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, according to the US Navy, and with full military honors. The cemetery is located at Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu and honors the men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces.

Hannon’s family kept “Bud” alive through the stories they told, said Vanessa Helming, a cousin. After his remains were identified on August 28, 2017, using DNA obtained from a nephew, Helming and his daughter, Chrissie Pimentel, began researching how to obtain a military burial at the National Memorial Cemetery.

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“We all knew about Francis,” said Helming, of Alexandria, Va. “So when I was visiting my daughter, who lives in Hawaii, we visited the memorial and thought, we need to have Francis buried here. My daughter contacted the Navy. . She just started calling.”

Pimentel, of Anderson, Ind., has lived in Honolulu for five years, the time it took to bring Hannon to his final resting place. The sailor had been considered missing for 75 years until his remains were positively identified, Pimentel said.

“Her husband is retired from the Air Force, so she knows a bit about military relations,” Helming said of her daughter,

The gap between identifying his remains and planning a military burial stems from the COVID-10 pandemic, said Gene Hughes of the Navy Office of Community Outreach. Pandemic restrictions interrupted the programming of services on hold. The military prefers to meet families in person to discuss any plans, Hughes told the Star Press, and should wait until that option becomes available.

Dave Weir, the commandant of the American Legion Post in Middletown, and his wife are expected to join Hannon’s family members in attending the services.

The efforts to make service a reality were not wasted on Helming, Hannon’s first cousin once removed.

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“I want to say how wonderful the Department of the Navy has been to us,” Helming said. “They were all a big help in getting this done.”

Born on February 7, 1921, Hannon served as a Shipsman 3rd Class during the attack on Hawaii Harbor, the surprise military strike that dragged the United States into World War II. His skills, listed by the Navy, included forging, welding and brazing to make repairs to the ship’s structure.

On December 7, 1941, Phillip Hannon – “Bud” Hannon’s first cousin and Helming’s father – was waiting in California for Hannon’s arrival. The two, “like brothers,” Helming said, planned to spend their R&R together.

“When he heard the news” of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Helming said, “he just knew. He knew in his heart that Francis was gone.”

Army veteran Phillip Hannon, who died in 1999, fought in World War II in the Philippines and New Guinea.

“Bud” Hannon received several awards and decorations, including a Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal. US Defense Service Medal (with fleet clasp), Asia-Pacific Campaign Medal (with bronze star), US Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.

Having enlisted on August 23, 1939, Hannon reported for service aboard the USS Oklahoma in October 1939, via Naval Training Station Great Lakes, Illinois.

Historians would document that some 429 officers and enlisted men of the USS Oklahoma died on December 7, 1941, mostly when the ship capsized and they were trapped inside. It would take months for the ship to be righted and the remains recovered, although some sailors, like Hannon, remained unidentified for decades.