An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

News Release

Press Release | March 11, 2024

USS Oklahoma Sailor Accounted for from WWII (Thornton, C.)

Washington  –  

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Navy Seaman 2nd Class (S2c) Cecil H. Thornton, 21, of Rogersville, Alabama, killed during World War II, was accounted for on April 16, 2019.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Thornton was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including S2c Thornton.

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.

In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) at Schofield Barracks. In their analysis, CIL personnel could only identify 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 graves at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including S2c Thornton.

In 2003, renewed efforts to identify the Unknowns of the USS Oklahoma began with the exhumation of one of the 46 graves. In 2015, DPAA received the approval to exhume the rest of the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the NMCP, which were accessioned into the Laboratory for identification.

To identify Thornton’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.

Thornton’s name is recorded in the Courts 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.

S2c Thornton will be buried on March 11, 2024, in Rogersville, Alabama.

For family and funeral information, contact the US Navy 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 while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or https://www.linkedin.com/company/defense-pow-mia-accounting-agency.

Thornton’s personnel profile can be viewed at https://dpaa-mil.sites.crmforce.mil/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt0000000XgC0EAK.