Payton Lafayette Vanderpool Jr. was a United States Navy sailor who was killed on the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. His remains were identified on September 29, 2003, making him the second Pearl Harbor unknown to be identified.
Payton Vanderpool Jr. was born on June 14, 1919 to Payton and Bertha Sturwoldt Vanderpool in Braymer, Missouri. Growing up, he had eight older siblings, one of which had predeceased him, and two younger siblings.
In 1940, Payton enlisted in the United States Navy. The Navy permitted him to enlist, but he had to remove a loose front tooth. He rose through the ranks and became a Fireman, 2nd class, and was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania.
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. At the time, the USS Pennsylvania was stationed at Dry Dock No. 1 for maintenance. While the battleship weathered the attack's first wave, a Japanese bomb penetrated her main deck and detonated in its ninth casement during the second wave. This caused a fire in the forward part of the ship, but this was quickly taken out by the crew.
Overall, 2,335 Americans were killed in the attack; 24 USS Pennsylvania sailors and Marines were killed, and 11 crew members from other ships were also killed on the Pennsylvania. The surprise attack led US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to declare December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy." The following day, the United States Congress declared war on Japan, which led to the United States' formal entry into World War II.
Within a few days, only four of the USS Pennsylvania sailors, and four sailors from other ships on the USS Pennsylvania, did not have their remains accounted for. The remains of unknown servicemen that were discovered following the attack were buried at the Halawa Naval Cemetery in Honolulu on December 9, 1941. In 1949, they were reburied at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, AKA the "Punchbowl," in Honolulu.
On December 12, the USS Pennsylvania was refloated and taken out of the drydock. The battleship departed Pearl Harbor eight days later and arrived in San Francisco, California on December 29. Repairs were completed on January 12, 1942.
Payton was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. He was memorialized at Court 2 in the Courts of the Missing, at the Honolulu Memorial in Honolulu.
In 2003, Ray Emory, a survivor of Pearl Harbor and national historian for the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association who pushed to identify the unknown Pearl Harbor remains, suggested a set of remains buried in Grave Q-179 was Payton's remains. In June 2003, he convinced the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command to exhume the remains. On September 29, 2003, dental records correctly identified the body as Payton Lafayette Vanderpool Jr.'s.
On December 7, 2003, Payton was buried with full military honors and with his parents at their family plot in Evergreen Cemetery in Braymer. Since Payton's identification, one of the sailors from other ships, Warren Hickock, was identified. As of 2022, the remaining six sailors are unaccounted for.