The remains of United States Navy sailor Hale McKissack are coming home 77 years after he was killed at Pearl Harbor in the Japanese surprise attack on December 7th, 1941. McKissack will be laid to rest at Fairview Cemetery in Winters on May 4th at 2 p.m.
McKissack was aboard the battleship, USS Oklahoma, when the Japanese launched their attacks at approximately 7:48 a.m., Hawaiian time. The battleship was moored at berth 5 at Pearl Harbor’s famous “Battleship Row” when the Japanese struck with almost 400 aircraft. The battleship was berthed on the outside berth of the battleship, USS Maryland.
According to Wikipedia, The Oklahoma was struck at 7:56 a.m. by three torpedoes from aircraft that had launched from the Japanese carriers Akagi and Kaga. The first two torpedoes hit within seconds of each other and struck the vessel amidships between the smokestack and mainmast and 20’ below the waterline. The torpedoes struck and blew away a large section of the anti-torpedo bulge and even thought oil spilled from bunkers around the location of the torpedo strikes, neither torpedo penetrated the hull.
A third torpedo struck the ship at 8:00 a.m. and did penetrate the hull. It did destroy the adjacent fuel bunkers on the second platform deck, rupturing access trunks to the two forward boiler rooms as well as the transverse bulkhead to the aft boiler room and the longitudinal bulkhead of the two forward firing rooms.
The ship was struck by 2 more torpedoes as she began to capsize to port. In addition to the torpedo strikes the sailors were also strafed by Japanese aircraft as they manned their battle stations or fought the intense flames that were hot enough to melt and buckle decks. It is unclear at what point McKissack was killed during the fight but the one thing is clear; McKissack and the other sailors fought with courage and dignity. Many of them manned anti-aircraft guns, fought the raging inferno, rescued injured crewmates or worked on damage control until the very end, when the ship eventually capsized.
In all, 429 officers and enlisted were killed from the Oklahoma were killed or listed as missing. The stories of the courageous actions by the crew were reinforced by the fact that many ships were named after Oklahoma sailors who died on that day. On July 26, 2018, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced that the Navy had identified the remains of Seaman 1st Class Hale McKissack.
McKissack was 37 years old and was originally from Talpa, Texas.
The official notification statement stated:
“On Dec. 7, 1941, Hale McKissack 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 McKissack.
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
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 McKissack.
In April 2015, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a policy memorandum
directing the disinterment of unknowns associated with the USS Oklahoma. On
June 15, 2015, DPAA personnel began exhuming the remains from the Punchbowl
To identify McKissack's 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) analysis.
DPAA is grateful to 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 72,741 (approximately 26,000 are
assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II.
McKissack's 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.
For family information, contact the Navy Service Casualty office at (800)
It’s never too late to bring our veterans home and honor them. The community and many groups are ensuring that McKissack will receive the honors due him and those he served with. Sandra Van Zant, the Runnels County Veterans Service Officer, has been disseminating the information and requests of the family and has been relaying the plans to the community. Additionally, she has been in communication with various veterans groups to ensure McKissack is honored throughout his trip.