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Gov. Beshear recognizes sacrifice of Somerset sailor killed at Pearl Harbor

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American Flag (Photo)(J. Scott Applewhite | ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 2:44 PM CDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WBKO) - Gov. Andy Beshear recognizes the sacrifice of a Somerset sailor who died on the USS Oklahoma in the attack on Pearl Harbor but whose remains were not identified until last year.

“For almost 80 years, families of the sailors who died on the Oklahoma could mourn their sons and fathers, brothers and husbands only at a distance,” said Gov. Andy Beshear.  “But thanks to the meticulous, persistent work of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Kentucky sailors are finally coming home.”

Navy Seaman 2nd Class Floyd D. Helton, 18, of Somerset, Kentucky, died on Dec. 7, 1941. 

Helton 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 quickly caused it to capsize.

The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Helton.

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, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Helton.

Between June and November 2015, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis.

To identify Helton’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis.

Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR) and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.

Helton’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Helton will be buried July 31, 2021, in Burnside, Kentucky. Gov. Beshear will order flags lowered to half-staff in honor of Seaman 2nd Class Helton on the day of his interment.

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