Remains identified of Navy Seaman from Winnie killed in attack at Pearl Harbor

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Friday that the remains of 18-year-old Seaman 2nd Class Charles L. Saunders of Winnie have been identified as one of 429 crewmen killed on the USS Oklahoma in the attack at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

S2c Saunders was accounted for back in February, but his family only recently received its full briefing on his identification.

He’ll be buried December 7 of this year in Winnie, 80 years after the attack at Pearl Harbor.

Statement from Congressman Brian Babin to KFDM/Fox4:

“My staff and I are doing everything we can to honor Navy Seaman Charles Saunders, who has been identified among the deceased on board of the USS Oklahoma moored in Pearl Harbor 80 years ago on December 7, 1941. I will work diligently to help the family of Mr. Saunders receive the closure they deserve. We are blessed to finally have this American hero home to be laid to rest.”

Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency – The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Navy Seaman 2nd Class Charles L. Saunders, 18, of Winnie, Texas, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Feb. 11, 2021.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Saunders was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, 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 Saunders.

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 (AGRS) 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 (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Saunders.

Between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis.

To identify Saunders’ remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.

Saunders’ name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Saunders will be buried Dec. 7, 2021, in his hometown.

DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of the Navy for their partnership in this mission.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at, find us on social media at or



Accounted For


On February 11, 2021, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) identified the remains of Seaman Second Class Charles Louis Saunders, missing from World War II.

Seaman Second Class Saunders entered the U.S. Navy from Texas and served on the USS Oklahoma. On December 7, 1941, the battleship USS Oklahoma was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when attacked by Japanese forces. The Oklahoma suffered multiple torpedo hits, causing it to capsize. Four hundred and twenty-nine sailors and Marines were lost, including SEA2 Saunders. In the days, months, and years following the attack, remains of men lost aboard the Oklahoma were recovered. Those remains that could not be identified were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Honolulu, Hawaii (NMCP). In 2015, the DPAA received authorization to exhume unknown remains associated with the Oklahoma and reexamine them using advances in forensic technology. From June through November 2015, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) personnel, in cooperation with cemetery officials, exhumed all remaining caskets associated with the USS Oklahoma at the NMCP and transferred the remains to DPAA laboratories. Laboratory analysis and the totality of the circumstantial evidence available established one set of these remains as those of SEA2 Saunders.

Seaman Second Class Saunders is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

If you are a family member of this serviceman, you may contact your casualty office representative to learn more about your service member.

Written by KFDM/FOX4

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