Arcola sailor returns home 80 years after death at Pearl Harbor

ARCOLA, Ill. (WCIA) — More than 80 years after the Attack on Pearl Harbor, a sailor killed in the attack is being laid to rest in his hometown of Arcola.

Charles Darling Brown was one of 2,400 Americans killed in the attack that led the U.S. to formally enter World War II. When his remains were recovered, the U.S. Navy could not positively identify them as his; as a result, he was buried as an unknown in Hawaii.

But a recent Department of Defense project to identify missing servicemembers’ remains found a match between DNA samples from the Brown family and remains that were disinterred from their resting place of 75 years. Now, 82 years after his death. Brown’s remains will be brought home to be buried.

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A service record provided by the U.S. Navy shows Brown enlisted in 1938 just one week after he turned 19. After training at Naval Training Station San Diego, Brown was assigned to the battleship USS West Virginia as an electrician. He reached the rank of Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class by the time of his death at the age of 22.

On Dec. 7, 1941, the West Virginia was moored in Pearl Harbor when the Imperial Japanese Navy launched its infamous attack against the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The battleship was hit by seven torpedoes and two bombs and almost capsized, but counterflooding by the crew resulted in the ship leveling as she sank to the shallow harbor floor.

Brown and 105 of his shipmates perished in the attack. His brother Harry was also aboard the West Virginia; he was wounded but survived and returned to active duty.

Local newspapers, digital clippings of which were provided by the Navy, reported that Brown’s parents were told a week after the attack he had been “lost in action,” before revising that to say he was alive, but missing. He was pronounced dead at a later date.

As repair crews salvaged the West Virginia and rebuilt her for further service in the war, Brown’s remains were recovered, but they could not be identified as his. He and other Pearl Harbor unknowns were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, nicknamed the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

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75 years later, Brown and his shipmates were disinterred from the Punchbowl by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in an effort to identify their remains. The DPAA started on another battleship at Pearl Harbor — the USS Oklahoma — and successfully identified 355 out of 388 sailors. A sailor from Auburn was among those from the Oklahoma who were identified.

The success of the Oklahoma project led the DPAA to expand its work to other ships at Pearl Harbor the morning of the attack, including the West Virginia. So far, more than a dozen of Brown’s shipmates have been identified, including Keith Tipsword of Moccasin.

Using DNA samples submitted by the Brown family, along with Navy medical and dental records, DPAA personnel identified Brown’s remains in 2022.

On Saturday, Brown will be buried for the final time with full military honors in Humbolt, just miles away from where he grew up. A rosette will also be placed next to his name on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl to indicate that he has been accounted for.

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