The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Navy Fireman 1st Class Bethel E. Walters, 25, of Bellevue, Texas, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Sep. 23, 2019.
(This identification was initially published Oct. 30, 2019.)
On Dec. 7, 1941, Walters was assigned to the battleship USS West Virginia, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS West Virginia sustained multiple torpedo hits, but timely counter-flooding measures taken by the crew prevented it from capsizing, and it came to rest on the shallow harbor floor. The attack resulted in the deaths of 106 crewmen, including Walters.
During efforts to salvage the USS West Virginia, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crewmen, representing at least 66 individuals. Those who could not be identified, including Walters, were interred as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.
From June through October 2017, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, in cooperation with cemetery officials, disinterred 35 caskets, reported to be associated with the USS West Virginia, from the Punchbowl and transferred the remains to the laboratory for identification.
To identify Walters’ remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y-chromosome DNA (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.
DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of the Navy 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 72,635 still unaccounted for from World War II with approximately 30,000 assessed as possibly recoverable. Walters’ name is recorded on the Courts 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.