Floyd Arthur Wells was a radioman second class on the U.S.S. Arizona, he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. But in the confusion of World War II he was buried in Honolulu among the “unknowns” killed on the U.S.S. Oklahoma.
Most of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on the Arizona went down with the ship and their remains were never recovered.
The Oklahoma suffered 429 casualties, with 388 of them lacking identification. Many of their bodies were recovered and buried in Honolulu. When the war ended, the military succeeded in identifying a few, but most remained unknown until 2015 when the government — aided by DNA and other technology — began a large-scale project to give names to the Oklahoma men.
One casket contained remains that did not match anyone from that battleship, which prompted researchers to broaden their scope. On June 17, 2019, they confirmed that the remains were those of Mr. Wells. He had survived the attack and was taken aboard a third battleship, the Tennessee. Badly burned, he died while being transferred to a hospital on shore. That, it appears, is when the confusion about his identity began.
His story ended back in North Dakota 81 years after he left home. Accompanied by Naval escorts and political dignitaries, his remains were flown there and buried Oct. 1, 2019, at the Veterans Cemetery at Mandan.
His parents and four siblings were all dead by then, but nieces and nephews honored his memory with an obituary and in interviews that described his life. He was born April 18, 1917, to Earl Wells, a railroad station agent, and Edna Larson Wells, a homemaker and Norwegian immigrant.
Floyd graduated from the high school in Fairdale, population 187, in 1934. He played baseball and basketball and was awarded an academic scholarship to Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. He enlisted in the Navy in April 1938 and went aboard the Arizona that Dec. 13. He sent part of his pay home so a younger brother, Glenn, could attend business college. Glenn went on to become sheriff for Pembina County, North Dakota.
“North Dakota boy, North Dakota soil,” a nephew, Curtis Wells, told a reporter when Floyd Arthur Wells was brought home.”He’s going to get the recognition he deserves.”
UPDATE: In 2019, RM2c Floyd A Wells was identified during a DPAA project to identify the unknowns from the USS Oklahoma. Fore More information about this positive identification of a USS Arizona crew member, please click HERE.
Sources: Walsh County (North Dakota) Record; the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency; Askew (North Dakota) Funeral Home; CBS News; the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Herald; The Jamestown (North Dakota) Sun; Census; Navy muster roll. Navy photograph. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.
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