The last Navy sailor from Warren County to be killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor has finally been identified and will be brought back home to be laid to rest following years of intensive research from his family.
When Patricia Keel began working on her family tree approximately 10 years ago, she didn’t realize the amount of research she would do in order to bring her cousin’s remains back to his hometown to be laid to rest after his death during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was one of over 400 men who drowned when the USS Oklahoma sank.
Warren Harding Crim was killed during the surprise attack by Japanese aircrafts on Pearl Harbor, a U.S. naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii, in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 1941. The numerous torpedo strikes capsized the USS Oklahoma, which was Crim’s ship. He was 21 and was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal and American Defense Service Medal.
Crim was a Navy Fireman 3rd Class who enlisted July 10, 1940. He was assigned to the USS Oklahoma in 1941. Crim had been in the Navy a little over a year before the attack claimed his life.
“It was his decision to join the Navy and he knew what the situation was, but he didn’t know exactly what he was in for,” says Keel. “I’m proud to call him part of my family. I felt like it was up to someone in the family who was still living to honor his memory by having him brought home.”
Crim’s remains will be buried in the Veterans of Valor section at Smartt Memorial Gardens on April 11 following his family receiving his remains from Hawaii.
“It’s something I made a promise to do,” says Keel. “I was able to carry that out, and I wish a lot of my relatives who have already passed away were here as his remains are finally brought home.”
There were 429 men who lost their lives when the USS Oklahoma sank. There have been 242 identified. Warren’s body wasn’t identified until 2018 due to the large number of men in the ship who couldn’t get out, resulting in their remains deteriorating into bones. When DNA testing started, identification became possible.
“I’ve been doing this family tree for about 10 years,” says Keel. “I found out about Warren being in Pearl Harbor as I dug into the family tree. It took a solid 10 years to get to the root of where Warren was and how to bring him home.”
Unfortunately, Crim’s parents, Maude Stubblefield and Vernon Crim, and his sister Mona Crim, passed away before Warren’s remains could be brought home.
“I wish the deceased family members were here to see Warren brought back home to be laid to rest, particularly his parents and Mona, but Mona especially,” says Keel. “She loved her little brother.”
Keel’s cousin, Jeffrey Penn, donated his DNA for testing, with the results coming back positive to Warren’s.
“I’m thankful for Jeffrey, or we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” says Keel. “Most of my family said I was crazy for even trying to find Warren’s remains. Now, they are saying hallelujah. It took both my cousin and me digging, talking to people and doing everything we could.”
It was discovered Crim’s remains had been placed in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific located in the Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu, which is a memorial to honor the men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces, and gave their lives doing so.
Crim’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from World War II. To indicate he has been accounted for, a rosette will be placed next to his name.
Once Crim’s remains are brought to Warren County on April 11, he will be buried with full military honors. His cousin, Jeff Penn, who is also a veteran, will fold the flag upon its removal from the casket.
“For us to be able to bring him home after all this time and put him to rest in Warren County, where he was born and raised, is just wonderful,” says Keel. “We want Warren County to know the last seaman who was killed serving his country during the attack on Pearl Harbor is finally coming home.”
The funeral will be held mid-morning at Smartt Memorial Gardens on April 11, but the exact time has yet to be announced by the Navy. The family is requesting for anyone who is a veteran to come and show their support
“After 79 years, we hope to give Warren the large celebration he deserves to welcome him home,” says Keel.