WWII hero identified 80 years after Pearl Harbor attack to be buried in Sierra Vista

September 16, 2021

(SIERRA VISTA, Ariz.) - 80 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Signalman Third Class Austin Henry Hesler will finally enter his final resting place. Hesler was 21 years old when he was killed during the Japanese’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. On Friday, May 28, 2021 at 11 a.m., he will be buried at the Southern Arizona Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery (SAVMC).


Hesler enlisted in the U.S. Navy on August 8, 1939 in Kansas City, Missouri, and reported for duty aboard the USS Oklahoma in October. At the onset of the attack on Pearl Harbor, USS Oklahoma was hit by a torpedo just before 8:00 a.m. 429 crewmen were killed, including Hesler, as it quickly capsized due to damage sustained from multiple torpedoes.

When the ship was recovered in 1944, the bodies could not be identified and were commingled and buried in several mass graves in the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu and marked "Unknown.” In 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) began reexamining the unidentified remains using advanced DNA testing. On February 24, 2021, DPAA confirmed that Hesler’s remains were identified.

U.S. Navy Mortuary Affairs worked with Hesler’s family to coordinate his transfer to Arizona. His remains arrived in Arizona on Tuesday. The Arizona Patriot Guard will escort his remains to the SAVMC. U.S. Navy and Air Force Funeral Honors will conduct the military honors portion of the service.