The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Navy Radioman 2nd Class Floyd A. Wells, 24, of Cavalier, North Dakota, killed during World War II, was accounted for June 17, 2019.
(This identification was initially published July 8, 2019.)
On Dec. 7, 1941, Wells was assigned to the battleship USS Arizona, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS Arizona sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused a cataclysmic explosion, and ignited a fire that burned for two days. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 1,177 crewmen. The majority of these remains were never recovered from the wreckage and are entombed in the USS Arizona Memorial.
For several years following the attack, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased from other ships that were hit by the attack, including the USS Oklahoma, on which 429 crewmen perished. Unable to be identified, most of these remains were interred as Unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. After Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work approved the disinterment, between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknown remains from the Punchbowl for analysis.
A casket that was originally designated as X-97 and buried at Nu’uanu Naval Cemetery was among those disinterred for DPAA’s USS Oklahoma Project. When identification analysis of the remains in that casket did not match any of the missing personnel associated with the USS Oklahoma, the DPAA staff widened the scope of the analysis to include all personnel missing from the Pearl Harbor attack.
Using a variety of information, the DPAA was able to determine that in the chaotic days just after the attack the remains had been recovered, but erroneously labelled as being collected from the USS Oklahoma. Subsequent attempts to identify the remains immediately after the war were unsuccessful and the remains were buried at the Punchbowl with the other Unknowns from the USS Oklahoma.
To identify Wells’ remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis to aid in the identification.
DPAA is grateful to the Department of the Navy and the Department of Veterans Affairs for their partnership in this mission.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,660 still unaccounted-for from World War II, of which approximately 30,000 are assessed as possibly recoverable. Wells’ 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.