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Rush Center sailor who died at Pearl Harbor laid to rest just before Memorial Day
U.S. Navy veteran Harold E. Bates was laid to rest Saturday at the Larned Cemetery. Bates was a Rush Center native who died Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor.” - photo by Janet Fleske Special to the Tribune
Pictured is Navy Fireman 1st Class Harold E. Bates of Rush Center, who died when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

LARNED – Just two days before Memorial Day, a Rush Center man who died nearly 80 years ago when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was laid to rest during a graveside service Saturday morning in Larned.  It was a somber and fitting tribute at Larned Cemetery with full military honors provided by the United States Navy.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency on April 21 announced that Navy Fireman 1st Class Harold E. Bates, 27, of Rush Center, was accounted for on Feb. 5.

 He was killed during the assault that propelled the United States into World War II.  

Bates’ remains arrived Friday at Bryant Funeral Home in Great Bend from Omaha, Neb., with white uniform-clad Navy personnel acting as escorts. His American flag-draped coffin was transferred into a Bryant hearse.

Then, the Barton County Sheriff’s Office escorted Bates, joined by American Legion Riders, to the Pawnee County line where the Pawnee County Sheriff’s Office took over. Included in the procession to Beckwith Mortuary in Larned were Bates’ family members.

A family stood on the curb, waving American flags as the procession left.

On Saturday morning, a procession from the mortuary to the cemetery included the American Legion Riders and people waving American flags.

On that fateful day in 1941, Bates was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. 

The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Bates.

From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries.

In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. 

The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Bates.

Between June and November 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma Unknowns from the Punchbowl for analysis.

To identify Bates’ remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis.

Bates’ name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from World W II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Bates was born Nov. 5, 1914, in Rush Center, the son of Edward C. and Alice N. Davidson Bates.