Seaman 1st Class Millard Burk, Jr., of Pikeville, was killed in action on Dec. 7, 1941
Media Contact: Nicole Burton
FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 14, 2019) – Gov. Matt Bevin today recognized the sacrifice of a Kentucky sailor who died in World War II, but whose remains have just been positively identified.
Navy Seaman 1st Class Millard Burk, Jr., 19, of Pikeville, died during the attack on Pearl Harbor. On Dec. 7, 1941, Burk 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 Burk.
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 at Schofield Barracks. At the time, the laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma.
The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots 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 Burk.
In April 2015, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a policy memorandum directing the disinterment of unknowns associated with the USS Oklahoma. On June 15, 2015, DPAA personnel began exhuming the remains from the Punchbowl for analysis.
To identify Burk's remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scicentists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis. DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of the Navy for their partnership in this mission.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,708 (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II.
Burk's name is recorded on 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.
Burk will be buried July 19, 2019, at the Punchbowl. Gov. Bevin will order flags lowered to half-staff in honor of Seaman First Class Burk on July 19, and encourages individuals, businesses, organizations and government agencies to join in this tribute.