Pearl Harbor sailor identified, TN flags fly at half mast

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Tennessee Capitol will fly its flags at half-mast on Tuesday, in honor of a recently identified Yorkville native who died aboard the USS Oklahoma in the deadly Pearl Harbor bombings.

The Oklahoma was one of the first ships hit by waves from the attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday morning. More than 400 men were on board, sleeping in their lockers below decks.

Of the 429 sailors killed on Oklahoma, the remains of 388 soldiers could not be identified. These were buried in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries as “unknowns”.

Now, thanks to DNA analysis, 355 sailors have been individually identified. As of Jan. 4, 2021, Navy Chief Claude White, 40, of Yorkville, Tennessee, has been among them.

On Tuesday, White was returned to Dyer, Tennessee, for burial. For 20 miles along the route of the procession, American flags and people lined up to pay their respects.

“I was overwhelmed with the show of support,” Rear Admiral Gene Price said.

It was for a man they’ve never met, but who promises never to forget.

“It’s closing time for the family,” said Mike Biggers, Claude’s great-nephew.

Died in the line of duty, Navy team leader Claude White was welcomed as a hero.

“It just means everything to get him home,” Biggers said.

While no family member wants the chance to rest their loved one, this funeral service might be the exception.

“I always heard my mom talk about him growing up, and she heard his dad talk about him,” Biggers said.

On December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy, White’s life came to an end.

“He was unfortunately trapped in Oklahoma when he turned around. He was hit by several torpedoes and those poor sailors died there,” Rear Admiral Price said.

For a generation his remains, along with those of other Americans, have been trapped in the ship, unidentified, until now. “Now, thanks to the blessing of DNA science and what we were able to extrapolate through bones and remains, we now know we have Chief White,” Price said.

Eighty years after White’s death, his niece was his closest living relative.

“She was discharged from the hospital today to attend,” Price pointed out.

It was a moment she thought she would never see, and an experience that everyone else gathered in the cemetery will never forget.

“It was moving to see the kind of respect and esteem you would have for a deceased sailor who’s been gone for 80 years. But now he’s home,” Rear Admiral Price said.

White’s name, which was recorded on the walls of the missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, will now receive a rosette to indicate he has been identified.

White enlisted in the US Navy on September 9, 1920 in Nashville, attaining the rank of Chief Water Tender. He was assigned to the USS Oklahoma after completing his training in Newport, Rhode Island.

He received numerous awards and decorations during his service, including a Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal with three stars, U.S. Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, Asia-Pacific Campaign Medal with Bronze Star, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal and Sharpshooter Pistol.

Online condolences to his surviving family can be done here. There is also a online flower shop during which the public can send flowers to the family or plant a tree in their memory.

Additionally, for more information on the Department of Defense’s mission to account for Americans missing in service to their country, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) website and social media are linked.

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