Finally coming home: Liberty man killed at Pearl Harbor identified, to be buried in Gloster this July

Published 9:52 am Thursday, May 12, 2022

WASHINGTON—The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Navy Seaman 1st Class John R. Melton, 23, of Liberty, Mississippi, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Feb. 1, 2021. His family were fully briefed recently about the identification. 

Melton will be buried July 9, 2022, in Gloster, Mississippi. For family and funeral information, contact the Navy Service Casualty office at (800) 443-9298.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Melton was assigned to the battleship USS West Virginia, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS West Virginia sustained multiple torpedo hits, but timely counter-flooding measures taken by the crew prevented it from capsizing, and it came to rest on the shallow harbor floor. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 106 crewmen, including Melton. 

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During efforts to salvage the USS West Virginia, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crewmen, representing at least 66 individuals. Those who could not be identified, including Melton, were interred as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

From June through October 2017, DPAA, in cooperation with cemetery officials, disinterred 35 caskets, reported to be associated with the USS West Virginia from the Punchbowl and transferred the remains to the DPAA laboratory.

To identify Melton’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.

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

DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of the Navy for their partnership in this mission.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil or find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa.