Pete Turk was a United States Navy sailor who was killed on the USS California when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. His remains were identified on October 1, 2021 and he is the first of the USS California unknowns to be identified.
Pete Turk was born on March 8, 1921 to John and Mary Turk in Kansas. At some point in his life, he enlisted in the United States Navy from Kansas. He was assigned to the battleship USS California (BB-44) as Seaman, Second Class.
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 California sustained multiple torpedo and bomb hits, which caused it catch fire and slowly flood for the next three days. Turk was killed during the attack, although the exact circumstances of his death are not stated. His remains were recovered between the attack and when the California was raised in April 23, 1942, but they were not identified. As a result, he was declared 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, 102, including Turk, were on the USS California. 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.
Turk was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. His name is featured at the Courts of the Missing of the Honolulu Memorial in Honolulu.
Before the start of the USS California Project in 2018, about twenty-five sets of unidentified remains were potentially associated with the USS California. Because only twenty USS California personal were listed as unaccounted for, this may suggest that crew members from other ships were killed on the USS California.
In 2018, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency began the USS California Project which led to the exhumation of the twenty-five sets of remains which are being reexamined by advanced forensic technology. Due to these advances in forensic technology, the remains of Pete Turk were identified on October 1, 2021. His identification was announced on October 12, 2021.
- Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
- DPAA USS California: Fact Sheet
- Pete Turk (Honolulu Memorial) at Find a Grave
- USS California on Wikipedia
- Pearl Harbor attack on Wikipedia
- Some sources say 98 to 104 were killed. A complete list can be found here: Pearl Harbor Casualties: USS California