William Eugene Blanchard was a United States Navy sailor who was killed on the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. His remains were identified on January 4, 2021.
Early Life and Military Service
William Blanchard was born on August 22, 1917 to DeWitt and Nancy Blanchard as the first of their four children in Tignall, Georgia. At some point in his life, he enlisted into the United States Navy from Tignall. His service number is 2682245 and was attached as a Petty Officer First Class, with his specialty being Boilermaker First Class, to the USS Oklahoma.
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. Blanchard was killed during the attack, though his exact circumstances are unknown. His remains were located between 1941 and 1944, but not identified. As a result, he was considered Missing in Action while his 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, four hundred and twenty-nine, including Blanchard, 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.
After his death, Blanchard was awarded the Purple Heart.
In September 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 1949, the American Graves Registration Service ruled Blanchard, along with many soldiers whose remains were not identified, as unrecoverable.
His name is featured on the USS Oklahoma Memorial and in Court 5 of the Honolulu Memorial of the Courts of the Missing in Honolulu, Hawaii. Additionally, he has a grave at Magnolia Park Cemetery and Mausoleum in Warner Robins, Kansas.
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 D.P.A.A. used anthropological analysis and scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis to identify the servicemen.
Through these methods, William Eugene Blanchard was identified on January 28, 2021.