Charles Louis Saunders is a United States Navy Sailor who was killed on the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. His remains were identified on February 11, 2021.

Background

Charles Saunders was born in 1923 in Texas to Mortimer and Melina Saunders. He grew up with four other siblings. At some point, he joined the United States Navy from Texas. His service number was #3602696. He was assigned as a Seaman, Second Class, of the USS Oklahoma.

Pearl Harbor Attack

At about 7:48 AM on December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service conducted a surprise military strike against the United States at the naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The USS Oklahoma was one of the first ships to be attacked. The ship was torpedoed and was capsized, killing Shafer in the process. His remains were located between 1941 and 1944, but not identified. As a result, he was considered Missing in Action while his remains were buried in the Punchbowl at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Overall, 2,335 Americans were killed in the attack, 429, including Saunders, were on the USS Oklahoma. The surprise attack led to US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to declare December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy". The following day, the US Congress declared war on Japan which led to the United States' formal entry into World War II.

Aftermath

After his death, Saunders was awarded the Purple Heart. He was memorialized in Row 3 of the USS Oklahoma Memorial and at the Honolulu Memorial of the Courts of the Missing in Honolulu. He also has a memorial marker in Lot 41, Space 3 of Fairview Cemetery in Winnie, Texas.

In September of 1947, the American Graves Registration Service was tasked to identify unknown soldier's remains from the Pacific Theatre. However, they were only able to identify thirty-five of the crewmen from the USS Oklahoma. In October of 1949, the American Graves Registration Service ruled Saunders, along with many soldiers whose remains were not identified, as unrecoverable.

Identification

In 2015, the Department of Defense and the Defense POW/MIA accounting agency initiated a program to exhume the unidentified sailors of the USS Oklahoma to try and match their DNA against the DNA of family members whose loved ones were never identified. Scientists at the DPAA used anthropological analysis and scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used Y-chromosome (Y-STR) analysis to identify the servicemen.

Through these methods, Charles Louis Saunders was identified on February 11, 2021. His identification was announced on April 28, 2021.

Sources

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