A federal defense agency has released the name of a Sheridan man whose remains were among those who died on the battleship USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor 81 years ago.

The remains of Navy Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Herman Schmidt, 28, were identified on Jan. 13, 2021, but the announcement was held off until Tuesday, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

Schmidt will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery on a date yet to be determined, according to the DPAA.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Schmidt was on the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor.

The ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft and sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Schmidt.

Rescue teams on the capsized hull of the USS Oklahoma seeking crew members after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Photo by Fotosearch/Getty ImageUSS Oklahoma
Rescue teams on the capsized hull of the USS Oklahoma seeking crew members after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images

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

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

The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. The Registration Service then buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

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

Between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis.

To identify Schmidt’s remains, DPAA scientists used dental and anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis, according to the news release.

Courtesy, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
Courtesy, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

Schmidt’s name is recorded on the Walls 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.

For family and funeral information, contact the Navy Service Casualty office at (800) 443-9298.

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, visit the DPAA website, its Facebook page or at its Linked In website.


Late Casper Resident Survived Attack on USS Oklahoma, Founded Fire Truck Company

Longtime Casper resident Walter Becker, founder of Becker Fire Equipment Co, was on the USS Oklahoma during the attack. Becker was laundry in the engine room of the battleship when it was hit. He ran up four or five flights of stairs and jumped off just before the ship capsized.

He swam under the harbor's surface which was covered in burning oil. He was picked up by a raft, reached the shore and went back to the Oklahoma where he and others drilled through the hull trying to find survivors.

After a couple of days it was apparent no one was alive inside.

He then signed up with the destroyer USS Blue, which was sunk at Guadalcanal.

After that, he was assigned to an aircraft carrier that was attacked and sunk by kamikaze planes.

After the war, he eventually moved to Casper where he founded the Becker Fire Equipment Co., which started on East Yellowstone Highway, then moved to Southeast Wyoming Boulevard and then to Six Mile Road west of Mills where up to 100 employees built the fire trucks.

American LaFrance, -- a subsidiary of Freightliner LLC, which later became a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler - bought half the company in 1999.

In late 2005, investment firm, the New York and Charlotte, N.C.-based Patriarch Partners, LLC, acquired American LaFrance from Daimler-Chrysler's Freightliner.

In February 2006, American LaFrance shut down Becker Fire Equipment Co.

Walter Becker died on Dec. 4, 2015, at the age of 94. His remains are inured at the Oregon Trail Veterans Cemetery north of Evansville.







Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Monday, Dec. 8, 1941

My dad, Army Sgt. George T. Morton, bought the Dec. 8, 1941, edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Pictures of Casper College's New Veteran's Center

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