Randolph Harold Barber was a United States Navy sailor who, with his brothers Leroy and Malcolm, was killed on the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Their remains were identified on June 10, 2021.
Randolph Barber was born on April 29, 1922 to Peter and Gertrude Barber in Keeseville, New York. He grew up with four other brothers, Malcolm, Leroy, Clayton, and Robert. On May 8, 1940, Malcolm and Leroy travelled from New London, Wisconsin to enlist in the United States Navy in Chicago, Illinois. Following training at Great Lakes, Illinois, Malcolm was assigned USS Colorado and Leroy was assigned to USS Oklahoma (BB-37). Randolph would enlist months later and be assigned to the USS Colorado as a Navy Fireman, Second Class. Eventually, they would all be reunited at the USS Oklahoma.
On December 5, 1941, the brothers sent their family a photograph of them together in their navy uniforms as a Christmas gift. This would be the last time the family would hear from them again.
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 Oklahoma was one of the first ships to be attacked. The ship was torpedoed and capsized, killing the Barber brothers in the process. Their remains were located between 1941 and 1944, but not identified. As a result, they were considered Missing in Action while their 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, 429, including the Barber brothers, were on the USS Oklahoma. 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.
On December 21, 1941, a solemn-faced police officer delivered a telegram to the Barber family of the brother's fate. After their deaths, the Barber brothers were each awarded the Purple Heart. They were memorialized in Row 1 of the USS Oklahoma Memorial and on Court 5 of the Honolulu Memorial of the Courts of the Missing in Honolulu.
Their fourth brother, Clayton, enlisted in the United States Navy in 1943. He was among the first crewmembers of USS Barber (DE-161/APD-57), a Buckley-class destroyer escort that was named in their honor. She was in service from 1943 to 1946. She was sold to the Mexican Navy in 1969 where she severed until June 16, 2001. Her further fate is unknown.
In September of 1947, the American Graves Registration Service was tasked to identify unknown soldier's remains from the Pacific Theatre. However, they were only able to identify thirty-five of the crewmen from the USS Oklahoma. In October of 1949, the American Graves Registration Service ruled the Barber brothers, along with many soldiers whose remains were not identified, as unrecoverable.
In 2015, the Department of Defense and the Defense POW/MIA accounting agency initiated a program to exhume the unidentified sailors of the USS Oklahoma to try and match their DNA against the DNA of family members whose loved ones were never identified. Scientists at the DPAA used anthropological analysis and scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y-chromosome DNA (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis to identify the servicemen.
Through these methods, the Barber brothers were identified on June 10, 2021. Their identification was announced on June 16, 2021.
- Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
- Randolph Barber (Honolulu Memorial) at Find a Grave
- Randolph Barber (Most Precious Blood Cemetery) at Find a Grave
- Randolph Barber (National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific) at Find a Grave
- Randolph Barber (USS Oklahoma Memorial) at Find a Grave
- USS Barber on Wikipedia
- USS Oklahoma on Wikipedia
- Pearl Harbor attack on Wikipedia