Nearly 80 years after first reporting for duty aboard the USS Oklahoma, Jarvis Godwin Outland is finally coming home to Murfreesboro.
Outland, who enlisted in the Navy in 1938, held the rank of Fireman First Class on the famed battleship that was anchored at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. That ship was among those sunk or severely damaged during a surprise attack by the Japanese Navy. On that day, 429 crewmen on the Oklahoma lost their lives, including Outland.
In the weeks and months following this wartime disaster, Outland’s body was listed as “non-recoverable” by the U.S. Navy. That began to change in 2015 when the U.S. Department of Defense issued a directive to identify those unknown heroes. In most all cases, DNA was used in that effort.
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Since 2017, more than 100 crewmen of the Oklahoma have been moved from “unknown” status to “recovered.” Outland is among those. His remains were officially identified on March 19 of this year.
“I’m just so grateful that he’s coming home,” said Ann Parker, the niece of the late Jarvis Godwin Outland.
Buried with honors
With full Naval Military Honors, Outland’s remains will be interred during an 11:30 a.m. graveside service on Nov. 3 at Riverside Cemetery in Murfreesboro. There, he will be laid to rest next to his father, Jacob, and brother, Clinton.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the American Red Cross in memory of all military veterans lost in battle.
Outland was awarded two awards, both posthumously — The American Defense Service Medal and The World War II Victory Medal.
Jarvis Godwin Outland was born Sept. 8, 1920, to Jacob Holloman and Eva Cotton Holloman Outland in the Murfreesboro/St. John area of Hertford County. He was known by his nickname “Buddy” to family and friends.
“That nickname wasn’t all that surprising because he was the youngest of 11 surviving children at that time,” Parker noted. All of his siblings are now deceased.
Outland, a 1937 graduate of Murfreesboro High School and a member of Murfreesboro United Methodist Church, enlisted in theNavy when he was 17 years old.
He reported for duty on the USS Oklahoma on Nov. 10, 1938. Assigned to Pearl Harbor, the Oklahoma only made two trips back to the mainland prior to that fateful Sunday morning in 1941, both times to the West Coast for repairs.
Hit by 9 torpedoes
The ship was moored alongside the USS Maryland when the Japanese pulled off their surprise attack. In the first 10 minutes of the battle, eight torpedoes hit the Oklahoma, and which began to capsize. A ninth torpedo hit as the ship sunk in the mud.
Fourteen Marines and 415 sailors died; 32 men were rescued, cut out through the hull. Banging could be heard for over three days and then there was silence.
“We do not know for sure, but the family was thinking that Buddy may have been in the engine room when the attack took place,” Parker said. “All that the family was told by the Navy was that his body was not recovered. The Navy did find and return (to his father) a wallet, some snapshots, and some papers that belonged to Fireman First Class Outland.
“The last known photo of Buddy was taken with his family in 1938 on the front porch of the home. I assume that was right before he left to join the Navy,” said Parker, thumbing through a family album earlier this month.
She added there was a sense of pride among her family that one of their members served and died in defense of freedom.
“They were proud and honored for the capacity in which he served,” Parker noted. “He devoted his service, and his life, to his country. His name is always mentioned lovingly among family members.”
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), from December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew. Those remains were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries in Hawaii.
Identifying Pearl Harbor casualties
In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time.
The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Outland.
In April 2015, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a policy memorandum directing the disinterment of unknowns associated with the USS Oklahoma. On June 15, 2015, DPAA personnel began exhuming the remains from the Punchbowl for mitochondrial DNA analysis. Other means were also used for identification, to include dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence.
“It was through DNA that Buddy’s remains were identified in March of this year,” said Parker.
But that came in a unique way.
Parker shared that her Uncle Horace Lee Outland, now deceased, had a son that he named Jarvis Godwin Outland.
“They even gave him the same nickname – Buddy,” she smiled. “He supplied the Navy with the parental DNA. The maternal DNA came from Jack Milliner, the great grandson of Huldah. All this was done within the last two years.”
Parker said she made a personal visit to Hawaii six years ago.
“My main purpose was to go to the Joint Command (U.S. Pacific Command),” she recalled of her trip. “They showed us the processes they go though to identify the bones.
“They asked me what did I want to do if my uncle’s remains were identified,” Parker added. “My answer was I wanted him to come home.”
That request will be honored Nov. 3 when U.S. Navy Fireman First Class Jarvis Godwin Outland is laid to rest in his native Hertford County soil.