By Dave Taylor
After 79 years of knowing, but not knowing, that 21-year-old Daymond Young was killed on the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor, his body has been identified through DNA analysis and the Hawesville boy will be returned to Hancock County next May for a proper burial in the Lewisport cemetery.
Young was a Navy Fireman 2nd Class when he was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was docked at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. On December 7, 1941, a surprise attack by Japanese aircraft sent multiple airborne torpedoes into the battleship, causing it to capsize. Some sailors jumped from the ship into burning water and others were rescued when others cut holes in the ship to get them out. But 429 crewmen, including Young were killed and many went down inside the ship, which sat on its side until 1943 when it was righted and salvaged.
Despite efforts that began in 1947, only 35 members were originally identified, with the remaining bodies buried in plots in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl. In 1949 Young and the others were classified as non-recoverable.
But in 2015 the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) exhumed the bodies from the Punchbowl for analysis and potential identification.
“They had contacted me like five or six years ago and I had to get DNA from Harvey and I and then some of our cousins,” said Layman “Sonny” Hawkins, whose mother Mary Daisy Young was Daymond’s twin.
On August 19, 2019, Daymond Young was finally, officially identified, and plans were put in place to bring him back home.
“May the 11th was my mother’s and his birthday,” Hawkins said. “We tried to do it this year – but the virus prevented that from happening – because they would’ve been 100 years old.”
Now the plan is to bring him home to be buried on May 15, 2021, in a plot beside his twin sister.
“The Navy’s paying for everything,” he said. “They’ll send the coffin in and Rolling Thunder will escort it back to Lewisport.”
Hawkins wasn’t born when his uncle was killed, but he and his six brothers grew up hearing about him.
“Being mother’s twin brother, when we got old enough we discussed it all the time,” he said. “We always talked about him.”
He recalled the story he grew up hearing about how Daymond had sent his mother a meal menu for the holidays right before the attack.
“It shows what they were having for one of the meals, I can’t remember if it was Thanksgiving or Christmas, but that was the last letter she ever got,” he said.
And his legacy continued, with one of his great-nephews being named Daymond in his honor.
“We’re thrilled that they finally identified (him),” Hawkins said.