William Herman Trapp was a United States Navy sailor who, with his brother Harold, was killed on the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Their remains were identified on November 24, 2020, alongside Oliver Burger and David Clark Jr..
William Trapp was born on January 24, 1918, to William and Lillian Trapp in Chicago, Illinois. He grew up with his sister, Irene, and his brother, Harold, who was a year older than him. The two brothers did everything together according to their family, including enlisting into the United States Navy from LaPorte County, Indiana in 1939. William's service number is 4102862. The two brothers were assigned to the USS Oklahoma with William being an Electrician's Mate, Third Class.
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 Trapp 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 Trapp brothers, were on the USS Oklahoma. 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 US Congress declared war on Japan which led to the United States' formal entry into World War II.
After their deaths, the Trapp brothers were each awarded the Purple Heart. They were memorialized on the USS Oklahoma Memorial and Court 2 of the Honolulu Memorial of the Courts of the Missing in Honolulu.
In September of 1947, the American Graves Registration Service was tasked to identify unknown soldiers' 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 Trapp 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 D.P.A.A. 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 Trapp brothers were identified on November 24, 2020. Their identification was announced on May 10, 2021. They will be reburied at the Punchbowl on June 15, 2021.