Sailor Killed in Pearl Harbor Attack Will Be Buried With Honors on Memorial Day in Batavia
An “unknown” sailor killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor is unknown no more, and his remains are returning for burial in Batavia on Memorial Day.
Nearly seventy-seven years after he lost his life in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Navy Radioman 2nd Class Walter H. Backman’s remains have been identified through the USS Oklahoma Project, an exhaustive, three-year effort to recover the remains of those who perished.
To honor Backman and his sacrifice, the public is invited to attend his memorial service, which will be presided by Rear Admiral Carol Lynch and attended by a seven-member honor detail.
Backman’s remains will arrive at O’Hare Airport at 5:21 p.m. Saturday March 26. There will be a motorcade from the airport to Healy Chapel, Downer Place in Aurora.
The ceremony will begin with a short prayer service at 1 p.m. on Memorial Day (Monday, May 28, 2018) at Healy Chapel. At 1:30 p.m., the memorial procession will leave Healy Chapel going west on Downer Place, then north on Highland Avenue, then east on Sullivan Road, and finally north on IL Route 25 to the cemetery.
The procession is estimated to take approximately 30 minutes, arriving at 2 p.m. at River Hills Memorial Park in Batavia.
Backman was killed during the attack on the USS Oklahoma during World War II. He was among the nearly 400 sailors buried as Unknowns in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.
In 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed all of the unknown remains from the USS Oklahoma, and began the lengthy identification process.
Jacob Zimmerman, superintendent of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Kane County, said Backman’s remains will be buried next to the memorial stone that bears his name at River Hills Memorial Park in Batavia.
“I applaud the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for the job they do ensuring that America’s sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice, are brought home to be laid to rest,” Zimmerman said. “The work they do not just at Pearl Harbor, but all around the world is nothing short of remarkable.”
On Dec. 7, 1941, Backman was assigned to the 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.
According to official documents and newspaper accounts, Backman was born in 1919 in Walton, ND, to a farming family who moved to Aurora shortly after his 1938 enlistment in the Navy.
His last known address was 444 Spruce St. Aurora, IL. His last rank was Petty Officer Second Class and he served from 1938 to 1941.
A Purple Heart was awarded to his mother, August F. Backman, along with two other Aurora sailors, at the annual convention of the Illinois Department of the Purple Heart and its auxiliary in Aurora.
Backman’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at an American Battle Monuments Commission site along with the others who are missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.