USS California – Pearl Harbor Unknowns

At the Department of Defense, Rick Stone served as the Deputy Chief of the World War II Research and Investigation Branch and was the primary investigator assigned to the cases of American sailors listed as “Unresolved” from the USS California during the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.  Chief Stone developed an extensive computer database to develop multiple statistical and historical datasets on unidentified casualties from the USS California. At the time of Chief Stone’s investigations, twenty men from the USS California remained in an “Unresolved” status in the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) database, including three officers. Twenty-three bodies, or portions of bodies, identified after the attack as being from the USS California were previously buried as an “Unknown” in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) in Honolulu, Hawaii.  

Chief Stone utilized comparison biometric profiling and statistical correlations as investigative research techniques in completing official Investigative Reports on all 23 burials of USS California “Unknowns” in the Punchbowl. Research resulted in lists of names being developed for the three standard investigative categories in each of the 23 cases investigated:

1) Possible Matches……………………2) Probable Matches…………………..3) Most Likely Matches

Each list was progressively refined by investigation until the smallest number of matches was obtained. The average number in the smallest refined category developed in each case was four . Three Punchbowl burials were determined to be smaller portions of one of the other twenty “Unknowns” recovered with larger amounts of remains present. In these three cases disinterment was not recommended. Disinterment and a full forensic review was recommended by Chief Stone in 20 of the 23 Punchbowl cases investigated on 21 February 2012 . The investigation in 17 of these cases resulted in the smallest refined number of matches being five or less, including four cases which were refined to only a single match to the specific unknown casualty.

When asked on their intent for pursuing the identification of unknowns from the USS California, a senior JPAC Laboratory Manager reported the laboratory would not attempt to identify ANY remains which were found in the water and could not be securely placed as recovered from the USS California, including any remains recovered on December 7, 1941 and recorded in the Bureau of Naval Medicine documents as USS California casualties. As a result of this stance, not a single USS California “Unknown” from the Punchbowl was ever the subject of a JPAC forensic examination.

Fortunately, JPAC was disbanded in 2015 and it’s replacement agency, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), gained access to all of Chief Stone’s Investigative Reports.  Six years after Chief Stone’s recommendations for recovery and identification of these heroes, exhumations of the USS California “Unknowns” began in February 2018.

To date, only five USS California “Unknowns” have finally been identified:

S2c Pete Turk – October 12, 2021

S2c Tceollyar Simmons – May 24, 2022

S2c Stanley Casmier Galaszewski – October 2, 2023

PhM2c Merle Chester Joseph Hillman – October 20, 2023

PhM2c Hillman’s hometown newspaper article about his recovery and identification:

MAtt3c David Walker – November 27, 2023

If you are a family member of one of the 15 American heroes who are still listed as “Unaccounted For” from the USS California at Pearl Harbor, you may contact the Chief Rick Stone and Family Charitable Foundation for a comprehensive “Family Report” designed specifically for your lost sailor with information regarding any possible match to those interred as an “Unknown” in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Our Foundation has now completed almost 680 Family Reports for the families of missing American servicemen. 

There is absolutely no charge to family members for this service.

To Request A Family Report, please use the “Leave A Reply” form below to send us you Name, Email Address, and the name of your USS California MIA family member.

Your contact information will NOT be posted on-line.

Copyright (C) 2012-2024 Chief Rick Stone & Family Charitable Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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