Pearl Harbor Medal of Honor recipient to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery

Listen to this Article
4 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

Seventy-six years after his valiant service during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Seaman 1st Class James Richard Ward of Ohio will be honored with a burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

The ceremony, scheduled for Dec. 21 at 3 p.m. EST, acknowledges Ward’s heroism and sacrifice for which he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the United States Armed Forces’ highest military decoration.

Seaman 1st Class James Richard Ward of Ohio was 20 years old when he died during the attack on Pearl Harbor while trying to save others. PC: U.S. Navy

The 20-year-old Ward originally was interred as an Unknown at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaiʻi until his remains were identified in 2021 using new technology.

His remains were among the last that could be individually identified. A rosette now adorns his name in the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, signifying that he has been accounted for.


The Navy Casualty Office subsequently notified his family and arranged for his burial, in accordance with its wishes.

Rescue teams at work on the capsized hull of USS Oklahoma, seeking crew members trapped inside on Dec. 7, 1941. The starboard bilge keel is visible at the top of the upturned hull. Officers’ Motor Boats from Oklahoma and USS Argonne (AG-31) are in the foreground. USS Maryland (BB-46) is in the background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

The reburial service at Arlington follows the Navy’s successful USS Oklahoma Project, which played a pivotal role in confirming Ward’s identity. This comprehensive initiative also led to the identification of 361 other service members from the USS Oklahoma, including sailors and Marines.

When the USS Oklahoma was struck by a Japanese torpedo at Pearl Harbor, it began to list. A minute later, two more torpedoes slammed into the 583-foot, 27,000-ton battleship, followed by at least two more.


Hundreds of sailors dove overboard or climbed up the hull during the 12 minutes it took
for the battleship to roll onto its side in the shallow water. Hundreds more inside the hull
were plunged into darkness as their ship keeled over and filled with water. The order
was given to abandon ship.

Ward was a gun crew member in Turret No. 1, a 14” gun turret. He remained at his post, using a flashlight to show the way for his shipmates to escape the doomed ship. Ward became one of 429 men who died aboard the Oklahoma that day.

Also perishing in Turret No. 1 was Ensign Francis Flaherty of Michigan. He also received a Medal of Honor.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. The sunken and burning USS Arizona (BB-39) is in the center. To the left of her are USS Tennessee (BB-43) and the sunken USS West Virginia (BB-48). PC: Naval History and Heritage Command.

A total of 16, ranging in rank from seaman to rear admiral, were awarded Medals of Honor related to events at Pearl Harbor; 11 posthumously. Ward’s medal was presented in
March 1942 and mailed to his parents in Springfield, along with a letter from President
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox.

The medal citation reads: “The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Seaman First Class James Richard Ward, United States Navy, for conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. When it was seen that the USS Oklahoma (BB-37) was going to capsize and the order
was given to abandon ship, Seaman First Class Ward remained in a turret holding a
flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see to escape, thereby sacrificing his
own life.”

Marjorie Ward, the sponsor of the USS J. Richard Ward, prepares to christen the ship in Houston, Texas on Jan. 6, 1943. Also present (L-R): Mrs. Howard I. Ward, Captain J. G. “Mike” Moran, USN, Lieutenant David S. Edwards, USN. PC: National Archives

The escort ship USS J. Richard Ward, which was in operation from 1943-1972, was named in Ward’s honor.

The upcoming poignant ceremony will pay tribute not only to Seaman 1st Class James Ward but to all service members who have given their lives in defense of their country, ensuring their legacy is never forgotten.

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments