JAG Leadership Participates in Burial of Sailor Killed in Pearl Harbor

By Patty Babb, Navy JAG Public Affairs Officer As a large crowd of media assembled in a hangar of the Jackson-Evers International Airport, Rear Adm. Carol Lynch began to feel […]

By Patty Babb, Navy JAG Public Affairs Officer

As a large crowd of media assembled in a hangar of the Jackson-Evers International Airport, Rear Adm. Carol Lynch began to feel the full weight of history.

Lynch, Deputy Judge Advocate General for Reserve Affairs, was waiting for an important flight to arrive. The plane had travelled more than 4,000 miles and carried the remains of Navy Fireman 1st Class Jim H. Johnston, who was killed in action on December 7, 1941. The next day, Lynch would preside over Johnston’s funeral honors – precisely 75 years after he perished during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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Rear Adm. Carol Lynch, deputy judge advocate general for reserve affairs, at the funeral of Fireman 1st Class Jim Johnston. Johnston, a Mississippi native, died at the attack on Pearl Harbor on the USS Oklahoma. His remains were recently identified through the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency that exhumed remains from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

“When I read the package on Petty Officer Johnston, I learned that his mother had written a letter after his death, asking the Navy to return his remains if they were ever identified,” said Lynch. Although she is no longer living, “We were able to honor that wish.”

“It was such a privilege to be a part of this event, and to see how much it meant to his family,” she added.

While government and military leaders took part in commemorative events across the Pacific Ocean, Lynch watched in awe as Mississippi paid tribute to its native son on the milestone anniversary of his death. The remains were escorted the 60 miles from the airport to the small town of Wesson by Patriot Guard Riders, fire trucks and police cars. The interstate closed for the procession, and hundreds of residents lined the road and overpasses. School children gathered near the cemetery, where Governor Phil Bryant made heartfelt remarks.

Johnston, who was only 23 years old when he died, was one of 429 crewman killed on the USS Oklahoma when it was attacked by Japanese aircraft. His remains were disinterred last year and identified via DNA analysis and other scientific methods. His funeral was attended by his nephew, Frank Springs, and other extended family members.

“Frank was only three when his uncle was killed in action, and most of the other family members in attendance had only heard stories about Petty Officer Johnston,” said Lynch. “It was pretty amazing to watch their understanding of his story grow through this event.”

“At the end of the ceremony, Frank gave a shout-out to the military and thanked the community for its support. It was pretty special,” Lynch said.

Johnston was buried at Wesson Cemetery with full military honors, and Lynch presented Springs with the flag that had draped over the casket. While Lynch’s family does not have a direct link to the Pearl Harbor attacks, her father and uncles served in the military during World War II.

“There are so few veterans remaining who experienced the Pearl Harbor attack, and it’s important to recognize the magnitude of the sacrifices made that day – more than 2,000 people lost their lives,” said Lynch.

“This event was a reminder of the sacrifice we in the military make day in and day out. We have an all-volunteer military, so the reality of that sacrifice sometimes gets lost,” she added. “But what the men and women of our armed services do each day in defending our nation impacts everyone.”