World War II Barren County Sailor identified from Pearl Harbor attack

Howard S. Magers was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor.

After almost 80 years, the remains of a sailor from Barren County who died during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor have been identified.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Monday that Navy Seaman 2nd Class Howard S. Magers of Merry Oaks was accounted for on Dec. 17.

A military funeral has been scheduled May 29 for Magers in Barren County.

The DPAA said Magers, 18, was assigned Dec. 7, 1941, to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Pearl Harbor when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits and quickly sank, resulting in the deaths of 429 crew members, including Magers.

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which left more than 2,300 Americans dead, prompted the U.S. to enter World War II.

From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries in Hawaii.

In 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

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 in Honolulu.

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

But in 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma unknowns from the cemetery for analysis. To identify Magers’ remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological and DNA analysis.

Magers will be buried May 29 at Merry Oaks United Methodist Church Cemetery at 130 Merry Oaks Payne Road in Smiths Grove.

Family spokeswoman Paula Ratliff Pedigo said Magers will be given a hero’s burial during Memorial Day weekend.

“We really wanted to give him a nice homecoming,” Pedigo said. “He will be given full military honors with a 21-gun salute. It will be a really special day. I’m honored to be working with the family.”

The burial service is slated to begin at 2 p.m. at the cemetery in Barren County, and the public is invited to join the funeral procession or to line the 20-mile route starting from Hardy & Son Funeral Home at 3098 Louisville Road in Bowling Green starting about 1:30 p.m.

Pedigo said the public is welcome to adorn U.S. 68 with American flags and yellow ribbons for the occasion.

– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit

– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit