By Seth Daniel
It took 76 years, but the dogged efforts of the U.S. Navy and advances in DNA techniques have allowed Everett Navy Radioman 3rd Class Howard Bean to rest in peace.
After dying at the age of 27 during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 while serving on the USS Oklahoma, Bean’s body was recovered after the attack with hundreds of other serviceman, but he was never able to be positively identified until just now.
With some family members present last Wednesday, Dec. 6, a full military funeral for him took place at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
In Hawaii, at the “Punchbowl” cemetery that contains the remains of those from Pearl Harbor still not identified, a plaque with Bean’s name on it will now have a rosette placed beside it – letting everyone know that after 76 years, he has been returned home.
“Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war,” read a statement from the U.S. Department of Defense. “Currently there are 72,975 – with approximately 26,000 assessed as possibly-recoverable – still unaccounted for from World War II. Bean’s name is recorded on the Tablets 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.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria and the Veterans Service Officer Jeanne Cristiano said they were happy to know that Bean will now be at rest.
“The City of Everett, Massachusetts extends its heartfelt gratitude and thanks to the USS Oklahoma Project and the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency,” said DeMaria. “Their unwavering and dogmatic commitment to identify the remains of all our nation’s deceased heroes is unrivaled among all of the nations of this world. Their successful efforts to locate the remains of Everett’s own fallen son, U.S. Navy 3rd Class Radio Operator Howard W. Bean who perished aboard the USS Oklahoma on December 7, 1941, will help bring closure to the Bean Family. Most importantly, while almost 76 years to the date of his death, this hero will at long last be brought to his final and most deserving resting place, Arlington National Cemetery. This fallen son of Everett will remain forever in our collective hearts and minds as an American Hero.”
Cristiano said Bean was born in Everett on Dec. 2, 1914, and enlisted in the Navy on June 2, 1940.
While in Everett, he lived with his mom and dad, Mr. and Mrs. Warren H. Bean and siblings and attended the Everett Public Schools through the fifth grade (age 9) at the Hamilton School on Nichols Street. The following school year, Bean and his family had relocated to Boston.
Identifying Bean was yeoman’s work, something that the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) does with great accuracy – aided in particular by modern advances in DNA analysis.
To identify Bean’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, which matched his family, dental comparisons, which matched Bean’s records, as well as circumstantial evidence.
However, he had been unknown for many years previously, and it was only a 2015 order from the Deputy Secretary of Defense that in motion a chain of events that led to Bean’s return.
The USS Oklahoma sunk quickly on Dec. 7, 1941 after being hit by Japanese torpedoes. It resulted in the death of 429 crewmen, including Bean. Navy personnel worked to recover all those that perished from December 1941 to June 1944. The remains were then buried in the Halawa and Nu’uana 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. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. 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 Bean.
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 NMCP for analysis.
Scientists were able to use that analysis – unavailable in previous generations – to verify the identity of Bean’s remains.
The full military honors burial at Arlington National Cemetery took place on Weds., Dec. 6 – one day before Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.