Portsmouth sailor who died in Pearl Harbor during World War II finally identified

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A Portsmouth sailor who died in Pearl Harbor during World War II has finally been accounted for.

Officials from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) confirmed that Navy Ship’s Cook 1st Class Rodger C. Butts from Portsmouth was accounted for on Sept. 28, 2020.

Assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, Butts was 47-years-old when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Navy Ship’s Cook 1st Class Rodger C. Butts (Courtesy – The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency)

The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits which caused it to quickly capsize. A total of 429 crewmen, including Butts, died during the attack on the ship.

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. Members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) worked with Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks to recover and identify fallen U.S. personnel, including 35 men from the USS Oklahoma.

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 Butts.

To identify Butts’ remains, scientists from DPAA dental and anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis.

Butts’ 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.

Butt’s family recently learned of his identification. He is expected to be buried in Newtown, Pennsylvania.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website HERE.

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