Remains of El Dorado native killed in Pearl Harbor attack return to Kansas

Published: Sep. 12, 2019 at 4:09 PM CDT
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After 78 years, a Kansas native's remains return to Wichita.

Seaman Wilbur Clayton Barrett, from El Dorado, left Kansas for the first time in 1940 to enlist in the U.S. Navy He served on the USS Oklahoma until December 7, 1941. That's the day the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii killed more than 2,400 Americans, including 25-year-old Barrett.

Torpedoes sunk the ship on which Barrett served as Seaman, 2nd class

Thanks to advancements in DNA-identification technology, the Navy about four years ago identified remains of hundreds of sailors killed at Pearl Harbor and buried in a mass grave in Oahu. Barrett was among them.

In a ceremony Thursday on the tarmac of Wichita's Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, Navy sailors celebrated as Barrett's remains returned to Kansas.

"He just came (to Pearl Harbor) to do a good job as a sailor, just like all of us do, and he fought, and fought hard," USS Wichita Command Mass Chief Ryan King said at Thursday's homecoming celebration. "Today we came here to honor his sacrifice, just like we do all of our service members that made the ultimate sacrifice like (Barrett) did."

A ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday in El Dorado will honor Barrett's life and includes a burial where his remains' final resting place will be alongside his family in the Sunset Lawn Cemetery.

"Sailors, all service members, they deserve the same honors. Seamen Barrett deserved his honors," King says.