80 years later, DNA analysis helps identify remains of 19-year-old Virginia sailor killed in Pearl Harbor attack

Officials using DNA analysis have identified the remains of a 19-year-old Virginian sailor killed in a World War II attack more than 80 years ago, the United States Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Thursday.

David Walker, of Norfolk, Virginia, served as a Mess Attendant 3rd Class while assigned to the battleship USS California. The ship was docked at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when Japan conducted a surprise military strike on the Hawaii naval base. Multiple torpedoes and bombs hit the vessel, causing it to catch fire and slowly flood, resulting in the deaths of 103 crewmen including Walker, according to a news release from the agency.

Navy personnel later recovered the remains of the deceased crew, who were buried in Hawaii cemeteries. Walker’s body was exhumed in 2018 along with 24 others who were buried as “unknowns,” according to the agency.

His remains were identified using anthropological, dental analysis and mitochondrial DNA analysis by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System, the release states.

Walker, a former student at I.C. Norcom High School in Portsmouth, Virginia, left school early to enlist in the US Navy about a year before he died, according to a newspaper clipping provided by the United States Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Shortly after his death, Walker’s mother, identified as Edna Lee Ward, asked a local reporter to place Walker’s photo in the newspaper to announce his death at Pearl Harbor, according to another newspaper clipping from the agency.

A rosette will be placed next to Walker’s name at the Walls of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The sailor will be buried in September at Arlington National Cemetery, the agency said.

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