Navy veteran killed in Pearl Harbor finally identified, remains returned home to Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Missouri Navy veteran killed during the Pearl Harbor attacks was recently identified for the first time, allowing his remains to finally be shipped back home.

Seaman First Class Wilbur Newton was killed-in-action more than 80 years ago and arrived back home for the first time Tuesday as his remains landed at Kansas City International Airport. His casket was welcomed by a water salute from two fire trucks and a U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard.

“This story is 80 years in the making and I never thought this would ever happen,” Newton’s cousin Robin Deeds told Fox 2 Now.

Newton was killed while stationed aboard the USS Oklahoma during the Dec. 7, 1941 attacks, according to his obituary. His remains, along with several other unidentified soldiers, were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu until 2015 when the military began using DNA to identify unaccounted for fallen veterans.

After three of Newton’s family members provided DNA samples to the Navy in 2012, the search began. And on Oct. 21, 2021, Newton was finally accounted for thanks to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

“After 80 years, you give up after a certain amount of time,” Deeds said. “I want to thank the aunt and cousins that gave the DNA because if it hadn’t been for those three, we wouldn’t be here today.”

During the attacks, the USS Oklahoma was struck with several torpedoes and eventually capsized, killing Newton and 428 of his fellow seamen. He was 29 years old when he was killed.

“It is very moving for the family,” Newton’s second cousin Jane Perkins told The Kansas City Star. “We’ve hoped, we’ve always wondered, but nobody really knew before now.”

The fallen veteran received a handful of awards for his service, including a Purple Heart, the Gold Star pin and the American Defense Service Medal.

“It’s a huge honor to be able to bring these gentlemen back home after 80 years to finally give them the recognition they deserve and the closure for the families,” U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Andrew Mouse said.

The flag-wrapped casket was brought to Mound City, Missouri where Newton will be buried in his family plot alongside his parents and two sisters. Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. on May 28 at United Methodist Church in Mound City.

Memorial donations may be sent to the Mound City United Methodist Church, Mound City Kiwanis Club or the Mound City American Legion cemetery fund.

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