Navy sailor killed in Pearl Harbor to be laid to rest in Wisconsin


A Navy sailor who lost his life in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will be laid to rest in his hometown this weekend. Firefighter 1st Class Kenneth E. Doernenburg was listed on March 25, 2021, thanks to the work of the POW / MIA accounting agency, also known as DPAA.

Pearl Harbor attack, December 1941. (Photo credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division / Wikimedia Commons)

Doernenburg was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. It was on board the ship when the Japanese attacked the port on December 7, 1941. It capsized quickly after sustaining several torpedoes, killing 429 crew members, including Doernenburg.

From December 1941 to June 1944, the Navy recovered the remains of the deceased crew from the USS Oklahoma and buried them in Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries in Hawaii.

Military portrait of Kenneth E. Doernenburg
Navy Fireman 1st Class Kenneth E. Doernenburg. (Photo credit: DPAA)

In September 1947, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) were tasked with recovering and identifying fallen American servicemen in the Pacific Theater. They unearthed the remains of American victims from the two cemeteries and brought them to the central identification laboratory at Schofield Barracks.

The staff could only identify 35 men from the USS Oklahoma. The remains of those who could not be identified were buried by AGRS at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

In October 1949, a military council classified those that could not be identified as unrecoverable.

USS Oklahoma sailing on water
USS Oklahoma. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The DPAA conducted its own identification efforts between June and November 2015. It exhumed the remains of the USS Oklahoma Unknown for analysis and was able to identify Doernenburg through the use of dental and anthropological analyzes. Scientists in the Armed Forces Forensic Pathologist System also used DNA analysis of the Y chromosome (Y-STR) to confirm the identification.

Kenneth E. Doernenburg was officially found on March 25, 2021. His name is inscribed on the walls of the missing at the Punchbowl, along with others missing during World War II. A rosette will be placed next to its name to indicate that it has since been considered.

As of September 17, 2021, the Department of Defense has identified the majority of the remains of the USS Oklahoma.

Front lawn of the National Cemetery of the Pacific
Pacific National Memorial Cemetery. (Photo credit: Gerald Watanabe / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Doernenburg received a Purple Heart for his efforts during the war. He is due to be buried in his hometown of Antigo, Wisconsin on September 25, 2021.