It was more than 76 years ago when Navy Seaman 1st Class James Solomon was lost at Pearl Harbor. The North Texas native served in the United States Navy aboard USS Oklahoma (BB-37), which was moored along Battleship Row at Ford Island. On the morning of December 7, 1941, Solomon, like so many others, was going about his daily routine when a fleet of Japanese fighters and bombers flew into Pearl Harbor and began the devastating attack that left over 2,400 Americans dead.
During the assault, Oklahoma capsized and sank, and James Solomon was never heard from again.
Missing for Seven Decades
Fast forward 76 years, and thanks to the efforts of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, his remains will finally return home after spending decades in a mass grave at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific with other unidentified casualties from USS Oklahoma.
The tragedy of the Oklahoma and men like Solomon continued well beyond December 7, 1941 and the days following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He and 428 other sailors and Marines serving on the battleship left their families behind when they went to serve in the Navy, and those families were forced to wait, some for decades, to find out what had happened to their loved ones.
Though they received a telegram on February 18, 1942, stating that he had been killed in action—a follow-up to a December 20, 1941 telegram that stated he was missing—Solomon’s family, especially his mother Bonnie, never had the closure that they deserved. His body was among a group of fellow sailors killed in the attack that were deemed too disfigured and unrecognizable to be matched with a name.
James Solomon: Another Lost Sailor Is Found
In 2015, however, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency launched a program to use DNA matching to identify and bring home the Oklahoma’s boys. To date, more than 100 sets of remains have been matched with their descendants, and James Solomon is one of these successful matches.
Members of the Solomon’s family were contacted in 2015 when the program started, and asked to provide a DNA sample to help identify their relative’s remains. Among those who helped were two nieces, who received a phone call in September 2017 informing them that Solomon’s body had been identified. Another relative involved in the process was Hardy Seay. Although he was still a baby when his uncle shipped off to join the Navy, he knew of Solomon’s bravery through stories told by his mother Pauline, and Bonnie Solomon.
“It certainly surprised me to get that call, I thought he may be identified, but probably not in my lifetime,” Seay recalls.
On July 14, 2018, James Solomon was finally given a funeral service with full military honors. After a wait of nearly 77 years, Solomon was buried in Forestburg, Texas, the town he left behind and never saw again.